Kenyatta National Hospital will be closed for at least six months of renovation.
The aim is to upgrade the 1,800-bed facility and then attract Kenyans who for years have gone to more costly private hospitals.
They often end up with bills they cannot pay and bodies are not released until the bills are settled.
KNH is Kenya’s and the region’s largest public hospital.
During closure, the public facilities built and upgraded by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services will cater for other patients.
Already patients are seeking services at other new facilities.
KNH was built in 1901 and houses the University of Nairobi’s Medical School and other facilities and agencies.
“Public hospitals must good in the people we deploy and the continuous training in non-clinical issues such as reception and customer care that people will opt to go to public hospitals rather than private ones,” Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said.
“The best-equipped hospital in this country is KNH. If I was unwell, I would rather go to Kenyatta than any private hospital,” the CS said.
NMS director of health services Ouma Oluga said the commissioning so far of at least 14 new facilities in six months alone has reduced the number of patients at KNH.
“This is not rocket science but the reality on the ground. The number of patients at KNH has reduced because people in informal settlements now have access to health care services,” Oluga said.
More than 160,000 patients who would otherwise go to KNH have been attended to in the 15 new hospitals, he said.
Having haemogramme machines in new hospitals means fewer patients must go to KNH for laboratory services.
“As we open these hospitals in Nairobi and the better hospitals in other areas, almost one in each county, we may have to close and renovate to referral hospital standards,” he said.
Last month, Health PS Susan Mochache said the ministry plans to upgrade KNH.
Infrastructure has been deteriorating.
Resources have been mobilised, there is new equipment and drugs in cancer centers and in theatres.
The deteriorating situation has been blamed on the financial burden caused by patients unable to pay their bills. The hospital has had to offer bill waivers.
In 2019, for instance, the hospital released 300 patients from wards after the ministry ordered the facility to make credit arrangements.
A lot of work in changing the facility has been going on for the past few years, CEO Evanson Kamuri said.
“This year alone, we have received more than Sh1 billion for equipment. Even when you hear doctors complaining [about lack of equipment], we have modern equipment,” Kamuri said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta directed health facilities in the city to offer 24-hour services. Uhuru said that most hospitals open between 8am and 6pm, locking out residents and forcing them to KNH.
By The Star