Grace Wachira @yaa_grace
With a simple sweep of the eye by the security guard, we make our way to the hospital’s car park. At the far right of the institution are NHIF branded offices. Patients swarm at its entrance all hoping to have their names called out.
“If you hope to get treated today, you might as well change your plans and just go home. You will not be attended to today,” says a woman who did not want to be identified.
Others sit on the tiny bench or by the car park’s curbs shielding themselves from the sun. Nyakio (not her real name) says that she had been waiting for two hours to be attended to since she had her tests taken.
“Once you present your NHIF card, they send it to the head office in Buruburu or to town to have it verified. It took me about a week to be cleared for treatment,” says Nyakio who has breast cancer. The waiting process is less tedious if you pay cash.
The reception’s seats are almost full. Some patients sit on the lawns or by the car park as their relatives queue on their behalf inside.
The television is on but no one is watching, probably blankly staring at its screen. A commotion ensues at the counter where everyone has to pass by before seeing the doctor for consultation. It is where they receive a card with a number.
An old man, in his 50s is furious about the way he has been tossed from one office to another. Two security guards promptly make their way to the counter and restore calm. They control the traffic. The man, who has a sling, is offered a seat.
I ask him for how long he had been waiting. “I arrived at 8am today because I wanted to get treated and leave. But since I arrived, I have been to the cashier, paid and was given a number. Now it’s 12pm and I have to wait in line again to see the doctor,” he said. He will be lucky if he leaves before 4pm.
Since our arrival, we have hardly seen any staff save a few medics attending to patients in the polio vaccination section. An area reserved for oxygen tanks is empty. Not a single oxygen tank is visible. By the corridor is an old man in a wheel chair. He seems to be asleep.
A stench is emanating from under his seat. Flies are beginning to buzz and swarm around him and two nurses walk by unbothered. Near the pharmacy’s wall is a board indicating how long it should take to get attended: between 8-15 minutes, which is clearly not the case.
Mama Lucy Hospital is study in patience. The long waiting periods are punishing enough to the healthy. To the sick, it is going through hell.