The other day, a woman in Embu narrated to the media her ordeal when she tried to get her husband admission into a hospital for treatment for Covid-19. She was told that ICU beds were full. She had to rush her critically ill husband to a hospital out of the county.
The questions this horrifying tale beg are: What happened to the governments directive that all counties should build 300-bed ICU capacity in the shortest time possible? What is the practical result of the theft of billions of Covid funds?
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government issued a number of directives, the most crucial being that all 47 counties prepare for the worst by expanding their ICU bed capacity.
As the case in Embu and other places indicate, this directive was not followed through. Issuing directives without mechanisms to ensure compliance is the policy equivalent of wishful thinking. But as the saying goes, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride them.
The harsh reality, though, is that beggars keep wandering the streets on bare feet, still wishing for those horses. So why was the policy directive not followed? Was it a question of inadequate funds? Was it lack of competent supervision? Was it failure of governance at county or national government level?
Answers to these questions must have uncompromising administrative and criminal implications for those sleeping on the job.
We should also ask why some hospitals are forcing patients to buy surgical gloves and masks for doctors if they want to be operated on or asked to fuel county ambulances in order to transfer patients from one hospital to the next. In these cases, too, similar administrative and criminal repercussions should apply to those in breach of government policy.
The parliamentary inquiry into the stolen Covid billions has revealed the casualness and blatancy with which well-connected cartels rob the public. Revelations of how people idly strolled into Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, the organisation in charge of the Covid funds, and walking out with billions-worth of tenders, provide a disturbing insight into the level of decay in our state bureaucracy.
Of course, as the parliamentary committee is finding out, these people walking nonchalantly into Kemsa offices with nothing and leaving with billons-worth of tenders are fronts for powerful politicians. So the money meant to help the sick and the dying finds its way back into political campaigns. It is the money used to pay the youth to disrupt meetings, heckle and even kill opposing teams. Yes, that is the dark nature of our dystopian world.
As a country, we pay a terrible price for allowing the evil twins of negligence and theft to be the organising principle of our society.
The Embu woman’s husband will probably survive because she managed to get him the care he needed.
But how many others die or will die because their kin do not have the wherewithal to get them help?
Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator