November 2015 DailyNation; It was a poignant moment for those who on Sunday thronged the Carnivore grounds in Nairobi for the One Nation For Janet concert.
The event in support of Nation TV presenter Janet Kanini-Ikua, who is undergoing cancer treatment in India, was not just about one person. It has transcended the individual to powerfully bring to the headlines the plight of thousands of Kenyans who have to seek medical treatment overseas because of a dilapidated public health system and a private health care system that is more attuned to mercantilism than the Hippocratic oath.
Janet’s role as a TV celebrity candidly sharing on Facebook her trials and tribulations since recently being diagnosed with advanced lung cancer has thus played a positive role in raising awareness about the condition and the dearth of effective and affordable medical treatment in Kenya.
The event that television brought to millions of Kenyan households was graced by the presence of Janet herself, who came home from India with a message of hope.
Janet is a familiar figure who has courageously chosen to play a positive role by sharing her feelings and experiences as she undergoes treatment. Beyond her media colleagues, friends, and acquaintances, there are thousands who have “known” her through her television shows.
It is likely that most, if not all, have gone through the pain and heartache of seeing a close friend or relative battle the “Big C”.
For some of us, Janet’s journey might also be intensely personal for her father, Dr Muiva Muli, now deceased, was in many ways a guardian angel to our children.
When my first daughter was still a little girl, she was struck by a mysterious ailment that the usual rounds of many hospitals and doctors could not treat.
Then a friend referred us to Dr Muiva, and with just a quick examination the soft-spoken paediatrician diagnosed her condition and immediately had her admitted to hospital for treatment by a cardiologist colleague.
The little girl who faced a serious condition that could have left her paralysed, or worse, is now a healthy grown woman.
Even well into adulthood, she refused to be treated by anyone other than Dr Muiva, the children’s specialist with a heart of gold and very little concern for the consultation fee.
She was devastated when he passed away.
Now, anyone who has reads Janet’s blog might have been struck by the efficiency and caring she encountered of medical treatment in India. Some of the world’s leading cardiologists, oncologists, and other specialists charging a paltry Sh1,700 in consultation fees would be laughed out of town in Nairobi.
The highly qualified doctors, advanced facilities, world-class care at dirt-cheap prices is what obviously drives thousands of Kenyans to seek medical treatment in India that is either unavailable or unaffordable at home.
Many who have had the misfortune of being condemned to Kenyatta National Hospital and other examples of our derelict public health system will attest to that.
So will the well-off who have been treated at Nairobi, Aga Khan, Karen, and other private facilities that boast “world class” care but charge an arm and a leg for the privilege and will kick you out if you do not have the money.
This mercenary culture is exemplified when scores of high-powered specialists pass by your hospital bed, take a cursory look at you, and then bill you Sh10,000 consultation fee for each greeting.
One Nation For Janet was held not long after President Uhuru Kenyatta visited India and discussed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi a plan to have hospitals from that country setting up units in Kenya.
This is one initiative from the President I would support 101 per cent. I would say we take from India entire hospitals, lock stock and barrel, and transplant them in Kenya.
Facilities, equipment, doctors, nurses, technicians, and support staff offering on Kenyan soil advanced treatment and care at Indian prices might be just what the doctor ordered.
Maybe that is the tonic that will force our mercantile or decaying health care systems to seek their own cures.
My fear, however, is that the networks of greed, graft, and corruption that profit from dysfunctional systems will not countenance such competition. In Kenya, the mafia rules.