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Seems like healthcare is just for the rich

By Stephen Derwent Partington | Tuesday, Feb 14th 2017 at 07:58
The Kenyan solution to health problems seems to be to protect the already rich private providers. Possibly, politicians believe that health, like a drip-feed, can trickle down to the poor

The expatriate plans to outlive the standard life expectancy of most Kenyans. Of course, this is relatively easy, given that he’s comparatively wealthy, privileged and, often, from a country that values the vegetable more than the dead animal.

He falls ill rarely, and when he does, it’s because he’s adventurously eaten something ‘culturally adventurous,’ perhaps some local speciality like raw chicken blood mixed with bile!

He further has the privilege of access to healthy food and clean water. Most importantly, he can afford good (read ‘private and selfish’) healthcare.

Back in his home country, especially if he’s European, healthcare is relatively free, and it’s universally agreed by citizens that health and other core services should remain in the hands of the people as PUBLIC services. There are doctors; there is equipment; there is care; there are politicians from all parties who support the public system, and who use it; there are patients who, er, live...

In Kenya, things are slightly different. On arriving, the expatriate will be told that, ‘You don’t want to rely on our local hospitals.’ Different expatriates will have different initial reactions to this: the snooty expatriate will instantly agree and start researching private sector healthcare; the liberal expatriate will say, ‘No, no, no,’ but, after visiting his first public clinic, will also start researching private sector healthcare.

In truth, the EuroAmerican expatriate in Kenya goes one of two routes, both private. Either he signs up to a local company’s Platinum Scheme, or he joins one of these EuroAmerican ‘international private schemes’ that promise, if he falls ill, to fly him to a distant galaxy where he’ll be operated on by advanced civilisations of aliens.

Neither of these options benefit Kenyan citizens in any substantial way; indeed, they’re not options, but ‘opt outs.’

Kenya seems to have given up on socially just forms of healthcare; here, one of the dreams of the socially mobile is to escape the poorly-painted wards of our understaffed public hospitals and instead attend the ‘Five-Star Muthaiga Plaza Medical Resort,’ where a person can die surrounded by slightly better furniture. And to hell with the poor, who anyway, the rich condescendingly believe, have already been prepared for that place through their earthly experiences of healthcare.

The Kenyan solution to health problems seems to be to protect the already rich private providers. Possibly, politicians believe that health, like a drip-feed, can trickle down to the poor. Sadly, things don’t work this way, and lives that could be improved or saved are instead prematurely ended.

While the expatriate, like our politicians, lies on his private hospital chaise having his feet massaged by a nurse as he spends millions of shillings to cure a slight rash on his left earlobe, he glances at his newspaper to see Kenyans dying in droves outside unstaffed public hospitals.

Probably, we need to better fund our public sector, pay our doctors and protect our citizens, all of whom can become sick. Otherwise, society is segregated, and cohesion will remain elusive.

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