MATHEKA: NTV, Apologise For Lying About St Peter's Hospital

I remember feeling sad and angry seeing that report. The most annoying part was the calibre of hospitals in the same list, in comparison with St. Peter’s.

MATHEKA: NTV, Apologise For Lying About St Peter's Hospital
An image of NTV studios. /FILE

By Grace Matheka

I first interacted with Dr. Wasena Angira in early 2019 when I secured a job at the St. Peter’s Orthopedic and Surgical Specialty Centre (Kinoo, Kiambu County). Doc, as many call him, has a very calm demeanour.

He is not loud. At all. He carries himself with grace and treats everyone equally.

As staff at the Hospital, we felt proud to be associated with him. We liked working with him. He was easy to talk to, dealt with misunderstandings in a fair manner and often spoke to the staff, assuring us of our contribution to the success of the hospital.

I worked as a cashier at the hospital back then, coupled with a few tasks in the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) department.

A building at St Peter's Orthopaedic and Surgical Speciality Centre in Kinoo, Kiambu County. /STPETERS.CO.KE

Before starting on NHIF services, I was given about a month’s worth of training from one of the administrators of the hospital and a colleague nurse who had over five years of experience dealing with NHIF claims and services.

I had previously worked as an NHIF clerk in a public level 4 hospital, but this was different. I remember how much they emphasized double-checking every patient’s details.

Every NHIF form submission passed through about three people before being fed into the system, for the sole purpose of making sure nothing was incorrect. Being an orthopaedic hospital, we attached every claim with Doctor reports, recommendations, surgical procedures to be done and even X-ray copies.

From the get-go, it was made very clear that the claim forms were to be verified and free of errors.

The few times we noticed errors in patient documents, unpaid premiums, etc, we forwarded them to the hospital administrator who would then advise the families on what to correct, etc. Nothing was left to chance.

I eventually left St Peter’s after about a year of working there. While I worked in other areas while growing my career, my former colleagues would inform me that a new, much bigger hospital building had been completed and that the hospital had grown in leaps and bounds.

I was genuinely happy for them, remembering how tirelessly everyone there worked to ensure that patients were well taken care of.

Fast forward to mid this year, a few people who knew I’d worked at the hospital sent me a news item by NTV about an NHIF scandal. St Peter’s was on the list of hospitals “exposed” by Nation.

I remember feeling sad and angry seeing that report. The most annoying part was the calibre of hospitals in the same list, in comparison with St. Peter’s. I wondered how this could be true, having served at the very core of the issue in contention, NHIF.

As a person who has personally seen hundreds of patients undergoing treatment at the hospital, getting help and eventually going back to good health, it irks me that such a story would be aired.

The hospital had started its services in a small building in Uthiru a few years prior. Back then, a lot of Kenyans would have to pay an arm and a leg for orthopaedic services in mostly Level 5 and Level 6 hospitals.

St Peter’s came through by offering quite affordable medical services, mostly and almost entirely reliant on NHIF cards. I witnessed patients coming in from Mombasa, Garissa, Embu, Kitale, Nakuru, Nairobi, and every part of Kenya to access these services.

And in all that time, I never witnessed any complaints of mishandling or claims of fraud or theft. If anything, St Peter’s encouraged a lot of people to pay their NHIF premiums, noting how those with serious orthopaedic issues got assistance.

Speaking now, I do not speak as a biased individual. I speak for the thousands of families across the country who have benefitted first-hand from St Peter’s Hospital.

For the last few months, a lot of families have been forced to stay with their sick patients in the hope that their beloved hospital will resume services.

Circulating a false narrative based on a few unfortunate scenarios which are a possibility in every major surgery, is the utmost misuse of influence.

The Nation should apologize to St Peter’s. It has cost people jobs, livelihoods, months of pain and loss of hope.

Grace Matheka is a brand communicator and entrepreneur. She has written over 1,000 articles on various topics covering health, gender equality, diversity and the arts. You can reach her at [email protected] 

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A photo of Nation Media Group. /BUSINESS TODAY