Families who could not afford treatment in private hospitals have heart-breaking stories of the three months that doctors have been on strike.
In Mombasa, Ms Bridget Nasimiyu, 30, was taken to Tudor District Hospital on Tuesday morning after her family heard President Uhuru Kenyatta ordering doctors back to work.
However, nurses turned her away and and asked her to seek emergency care at Coast Provincial General Hospital.
“She succumbed to her illness at the emergency ward of Coast Provincial General Hospital,” her elder sister Linet Nasimiyu said. “Had doctors been on duty as they were ordered, she could have been treated at Tudor District Hospital and now recuperating.
“We came here knowing there were doctors only to bring her to die.”
Linet said her sister’s husband called to inform her of her death. Bridget Nasimiyu left behind three children and a widower.
Linet said the family could not afford treatment at private hospitals.
“She was coughing a lot. We went to a health centre and she was given medicines but her condition deteriorated, so we took her to a public hospital.”
As she transferred her sister’s body from the body to the Coast General mortuary, Linet pleaded with the government and doctors to end the stalemate that has paralysed healthcare services at public hospitals for 100 days.
The doctors’ union has since called off the strike.
At the hospital, three bodies were being taken to the mortuary. A source said seven patients died yesterday.
Four died at home because they could not afford private hospitals, so they just brought their dead relatives here. It is a very sad state of affairs, the source said.
The source said patients flocked the hospital, the largest in the region, hoping that doctors had returned to work only to find nurses and other health workers attending to patients.
In Nakuru, the desperate family of Daniel Kipkirui Rono took him to the local hospital for urgent medical attention on February 8.
The 32-year-old had been having diabetic complications for 17 years and was attending clinic at the hospital, where he was supplied with medicines that cost Sh1,000 a month.
His condition had worsened during the period that doctors were on strike.
Mr Rono, an orphan, was in a critical condition when he was wheeled into the hospital’s renal unit. He was turned away by the hospital guards.
His blood pressure was critically high and his desperate two siblings and their aunt’s family, went to a private hospital. The doctors’ strike was on its 65th day then.
That is how Mr Kirui was admitted at Mediheal Hospital Nakuru, where he was diagnosed with kidney failure and immediately put on dialysis and in intensive care.
He died 20 days later, leaving behind a bill of Sh1.2 million.
The body has been at the hospital’s mortuary since February 28 as the family is unable to settle the bill and now morgue fees.
Before the doctors’ strike, Mr Kiprono was receiving treatment at the Nakuru public hospital’s diabetes clinic, covered by his National Hospital Insurance card.
Mr Kiprono’s brother, Mr David Rotich, said each dialysis session cost the family Sh10,000.
It had to be paid in cash since the hospital does not accept national insurance hospital cards.
They only raised Sh36,000.
Mr Rotich added that the family has explored all options – including requesting the hospital to employ him and deduct his salary until the bill is fully cleared – to no avail.
“The manager said he would only release the body once the bill is fully settled,” Mr Rotich said.
The story is the same for many other families who lost their loved ones and who had bodies of relatives detained in private hospitals, where they incurred huge bills.