The Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO) estimates that three in every 10 Kenyans who seek medical help are misdiagnosed.
Like the late Kibra MP Ken Okoth, who passed away in 2019 after battling colon cancer despite an initial diagnosis showing he suffered from ulcers, the victims of misdiagnoses end up treating the wrong symptoms, to the detriment of their health. Deborah Monari, however, is looking to rectify the anomaly.
Monari, a Kenyan nurse who suffered misdiagnoses at top Kenyan hospitals, told Kenyans.co.ke that it took the intervention of Indian doctors to restore her health.
Her health struggles started in January 2022 when she sought treatment after experiencing severe headaches. The consultants she visited while in Kenya diagnosed her with panic attacks.
"I consulted around eight times in different institutions and I would go back for follow-ups in the same institutions where I would see specialists and neurologists who would charge a lot in private institutions. The consultation fee only, without tests, ranged from Ksh7,000 to Ksh10,000 per sitting," she stated.
"I travelled to India because I was clearly not getting help. My situation was getting worse. We (Monari and her sister, also a nurse) would go to the consultations and were told things we did not agree with and there was no room to give our own opinion. That contributed to the decision to go to India."
Upon arrival, in mid-year 2022, Monari's imaging scans from Kenya were reviewed alongside new imaging procedures carried out by the host hospital. It was quickly established that she suffered from a rapidly growing brain tumour and scheduled her surgery immediately.
After a month of care, Monari jetted back determined to change the local medical system to offer patients transparent channels to air their grievances and report rogue medical personnel.
"I don't think I was misdiagnosed because the doctors did not know what they were doing, I think they were just negligent," she told this writer.
In mid-July, with support from Nguvu Collective, the nurse launched an online petition on the Change.org platform, which collected 932 signatures with the aim of stopping medical malpractice by establishing patient rights committees in health institutions.
Recent statistics from the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KMPDC) have underscored the urgency of her cause. In 2022 alone, KMPDC received a staggering 106 complaints of alleged medical negligence, marking an alarming 20% increase from the previous year.
The petition seeks to compel Health CS Susan Nakhumicha, as well as all governors, to put in place mechanisms for setting up of Patient Rights Committees in all health institutions in Kenya.
Letter to Nakhumicha
On Friday last week, Monari penned a letter to Nakhumicha seeking action in actualising the set-up of Patient Rights Committees. She argued that the misdiagnoses, which stretched for a six-month, subjected her to financial strain and emotional turmoil.
"There is lack of accountability. People really get away with whatever in the healthcare industry and it has become a culture. Kenyans do not know where to go," she said during the interview.
"Campaign is pushing for legislation for patients rights committees in all health constitutions to ensure that patients rights are adhered to in the hospitals so that it is a means for patients to put across complaints."
She also expanded her advocacy to her newly launched YouTube show where she has already interviewed four other victims of misdiagnoses. She intends to file a formal petition in Parliament to ensure justice for all patients and their families.