Funeral of a Covid-19 victim in Baringo North sub-county nearly turned chaotic when mourners ejected a top health official, accusing him for mismanaging the County Referral Hospital in Kabarnet.
Dr Gideon Toromo who is the Chief Officer (CO) for Health and an aspirant for 2022 was also ejected for stirring up emotions of the mourners when he walked in majestically while the ceremony was midstream, he was holding a flywhisk and had just alighted his new private fuel guzzler vehicle.
The health CO who donned a godfather hat branded ‘Senator Baringo’ and accompanied by an unidentified person who presented himself as a personal aide, distracted attention of mourners who were following the ongoing funeral sermon.
Unsuspecting mourners, especially those from other counties wondered why the heavily built man was not given a VIP reception as he hustled to secure a seat assisted by the “aide”.
Drama ensued when Dr. Toromo relocated to the VIP tent and picked a quarrel with a member of the Association of Baringo North professionals called ‘Arror Nation’ which nearly went physical. The deceased was founder of the Association, Mr. Richard Kiptoben.
Colonel Rtd Andrew Kwonyike, another member of Arror Nation Association launched a rebuttal against Dr Toromo claiming, “We would not have been here for a burial if it wasn’t for the irresponsibility of the health administration who should take the blame on the mess at the county referral hospital,” he said.
Police who were on standby covering the event had to intervene and escort Dr Toromo away to enable the funeral to proceed after the interruption.
Attempts by clerics present to ask the speakers to tone down their anger fell on deaf ears.
Pastor Christopher Chelal of FGCK church Kimugul led mourners with a worship song to bring their minds back to the ceremony as he persuaded them to forgive and forget what had happened to the victim and meditate on their future.
The county minister (CEC) for trade Dr David Sergon watched the drama but did not dare to intervene due to the polarity of the situation. The irate mourners did not even want Dr Toromo to give condolences on behalf of the county’s medical fraternity.
Dr Sergon who represented governor Stanley Kiptis escaped the wrath of the gathering when he claimed he was also mourning because the deceased was his uncle and he was equally saddened over his sudden demise.
The CEC expressed the need of shunning politics during funerals as a show of respect to the bereaved.
Former Saimo Kipsaraman Member of County Assembly (MCA), Vincent Kiror Tekelon and Erick Bett Almaida who were the first politicians to speak set the ball rolling by hitting at members of the county executive for momentarily engaging in protocol wars at the expense of service delivery to wananchi on critical sectors especially health.
North Rift Economic Block (NOREB) representative, Joseph Makilap and Dr Nelly Yatich who are also members of Aror Nation Association accused the county administration led by governor Stanley Kiptis for mismanaging the critical health sector and urged him to transfer the health CO to another docket if he cannot fire him.
Dr Yatich who paid tribute to the deceased as she was joined by Esther Nduati and Tony Kibet who are officials of Association said the lack of competency at the top leadership of the county referral hospital in Kabarnet town was to blame for the preventable deaths that have been rising.
Woman Representative Gladwell Cheruiyot, a member of health committee at the National Assembly condemned people using funerals as platform of politics and also the rising cases of negligence at the county referral hospital.
Nominated MCA Caroline Kessei who vowed to mobilize his colleagues to move a censure motion against the rogue county health official asked for moral support from his colleagues and members of the public.
Kessei accused the officer of being behind the dragging of an oxygen plant project whereby he changed the contractor hence resulting to fluctuating supply of the medical oxygen which was a leading cause of unnecessary deaths among critically ill patients.
Kessei eulogized the deceased as a motivator and mentor to women politicians in the county who will be missed greatly.
Meanwhile, the embattled county health CO who has had several incidences of harassment was on Thursday arraigned before a Kabarnet court charged with threatening and assaulting county payroll manager.
Dr Toromo who appeared before Resident Magistrate Vienna Amboko faced two counts of threatening to kill contrary to section 223(1) of the penal code and assault causing actual bodily harm contrary to section 251 of the penal code.
Amboko who set January 19, 2020 as hearing date of the case ordered the accused to be released on a cash bail of Sh50, 000 or a bond of Sh70, 000 with one surety of similar amount.
By Vincent Miningwo & Christopher Kiprop