July 2020 the Star :You fall sick and suspect pneumonia. You have a Sh500,000 health insurance cover. You are confident that should be a simple matter. You just need to check in to any contracted hospital to sort it. Not so fast.
Robert Kariuki, 36, was not even allowed to use the toilets of one facility. He was quickly ushered out of the gate and struggled for 48 hours begging different hospitals in Nairobi to admit him. Two others rejected him. And time, and breath, were running out.
His crime? He had 39.5 degrees’ body temperature and a dry cough.
Friday, June 26. Robert is rained on while going home in Kiambu.
“On Monday I felt very cold and also developed a small cough. I took antibiotics but the cough persisted. It was dry and irritating, I felt like I was chocking.
Sometimes there was mucus, but I would need to cough persistently to produce even sputum.
I was also getting muscular aches in my stomach every time I coughed. On the fifth day, I went to a hospital near Kiambu and the doctor recommended chest x-ray and some tests for pneumonia, which was positive.
No one ever suggested a Covid-19 test. The cough worsened, and became more frequent, especially if I moved suddenly or took a heavy breath.
My body temperature also started rising. I took lemon and water, and this helped a lot.
I went to Nairobi Hospital on July 1, where Dr Kimani Gicheru recommended a blood test to confirm if it was bacterial or viral pneumonia. He also recommended immediate admission at Nairobi Hospital, seeing my state.
It was full, so he wrote an open referral letter for blood test and admission at any hospital.
The next day, I tried Mater Hospital. At the gate, my temperature was 39 degrees. The nurse who took the temperature readings called the admitting doctor to see if there was space for me. He said they were full and advised I should look for another facility.
I asked for first aid instead, and they said they don’t have the capacity to treat Covid-19 patients. This was the first time I was being identified as a Covid-19 patient. I begged for about 30 minutes. They took my number and name. I think I was blacklisted.
At this point, I had lost appetite because the only thing I could taste was warm water.
From here, my friend drove me to Nairobi West Hospital.
They also took temperatures at the gate. It was 39.5 degrees. I presented my admission letter to the medics outside. After consulting with a doctor inside the facility, they said their isolation unit was full.
I stepped out of the car and leaned on it and begged with them to admit me, but they said their wards were full. I even begged to use a toilet but they refused. God, what do I do now?
It was clear I might have Covid-19. I had heard media reports that KU (Kenyatta University Teaching, Research and Referral) Hospital was full.
But I was still going to try. So I decided to go rest at home, pick up clothes and travel there the following day.
At 7pm I was running out of breath, sweating and feverish. I was rushed to Avenue Hospital because I had been treated there in the past.
The medics there were very helpful and kind. They were in full PPE. They demanded I must do a Covid-19 test. They also tested oxygen. They said normal pulse oximeter readings range from 95 to 100 per cent. Mine was considered very low at 82 per cent.
was immediately put on a respirator, and IV line near the waiting room. We struggled to take samples for Covid-19 test for 30 minutes because every time I opened my mouth wide, I coughed. The deep nasal swab was painful. It’s like they tore through a membrane.
At 10pm, they still had no free isolation bed. They called MP Shah, KU, Radiant, Nairobi West, Mater, and all these said they were full or couldn’t admit a patient from another facility.
At 3am on July 3, one patient in isolation was moved to the recovery unit, and so a bed was available. My lungs were 40 per cent operational, which means if I had stayed home that night, I might have died.
My tests came positive and I was moved to the general Covid-19 ward. I stayed on oxygen for three days. I was drinking a lot of fluids but eating was a struggle. Sleeping was difficult because the oxygen is constantly being pumped into your nostrils, and the ventilator is noisy.
I was discharged on July 8 at 9am, with a bill amounting to Sh190,000. And a shocker awaited me.
My insurer was contacted at 9am but they responded at 7pm to only say they would pay just the Sh35,500, accrued the day before my Covid-19 test came positive. It didn’t matter that I was also being treated for viral pneumonia.
So I slept at the hospital one more night and incurred extra costs.
I secured an expensive loan to pay the bill. It still angers me that insurance companies are abandoning their Covid-19 patients yet I have a statement from Commissioner of Insurance Godfrey Kiptum, dated March 13, assuring Kenyans insurers would pay for coronavirus treatment.
I continued self-isolating at home and finished my 14 days (since the test) on July 16. We are six in the house and my wife, children and house help are fine. I couldn’t afford a further Sh50,000 for their tests. But they also isolated for 14 days.
At 93 kilogrammes I am overweight and this might have worsened my condition. So I have changed my diet and I also exercise, to cut down by 15 kilogrammes.”