Anastasia Ndege was referred from Siaya County Referral Hospital to Kisumu County for CT- scan on her head and chest following a motorcycle accident in 2017, but could not raise the required fee of Sh12, 000.
“I was told the Siaya machine was not working, but I could not raise the money and did not have an NHIF card because I cannot afford the Sh500 monthly contribution,” she said.
Mrs. Ndege, 68, a widow from Central Alego Location in Siaya County, also recalled that a year earlier, her expectant daughter also failed to raise Sh7, 000 for a womb scan.
“As we were seeking for help, two months later, my daughter and the unborn child died,” she stated struggling to hold back tears from rolling down her ashen cheeks.
A CT-scan result informs a doctor whether a surgery was necessary or not and since Mrs. Ndege could not afford the test, she had to halt the treatment process and has remained with the pains since.
Even though Siaya county CT-scan machine was now functioning from last month, the poor, like Mrs. Ndege cannot enjoy the benefits.
The Hospital’s Medical Superintendent Dr. Michael Oduor said since April this year, they referred 150 patients to Kisumu County for CT-scan, but about 30 percent did not bring back results.
“It was generally assumed those who did not return results could not afford transport fare to Kisumu and back, but our tracing showed they could not afford the scan fees,” said Dr. Brian Ocholla, CEO of Community Health Initiatives (CHI).
The CEO said the availability of the CT scan in Siaya would definitely save time and money for those who could afford the fees, but it did not make a difference for the poor.
“Without help from somewhere, the poor can only postpone medical tests and surgery indefinitely, or abandon them altogether,” said Dr. Ocholla.
The Siaya County Radiography Services Coordinator Mr. Shadrack Oyieko gave the charges for common CT-scans as follows: Head and pelvis Sh5, 500; abdomen, Sh7, 000 and chest Sh6, 500. Apparently, these charges were far beyond the means of the majority of the residents who live below the poverty line.
It was due to the prevailing condition that Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga directed while launching the scan machine that services be offered free of charge.
Oyieko said 12 patients who happened to be in the wards immediately became beneficiaries of the free services.
The CT-scan machine had remained idle since it was brought in 2017, because of “delay in funds to install a reliable source of electricity,” according to the County Director of Medical Services Mr. Kennedy Oruenjo.
Oruenjo said Siaya County government pays Sh200 million per year for the CT-scan and renal machines, obtained from the national government’s programme of leasing medical equipment to counties. “This is why we have to charge the fees, to partly help pay the debt.”
Records at the hospital showed that about one-third of those required to be put on the renal machine to diagnose their kidney problems also failed to pay.
In 2017, the national government spent Sh38 billion to buy ICU, CT-scan, renal and theatre equipment to be leased under Managed Equipment Services (MES) programme. Each county made requests for specific equipment according to their priority.
The Medical Director however said the county government was exploring the possibility of waiving fees for those who it proved were unable to pay.
By Paul Olale