Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha has committed to advancing patient rights and safety after the plight of Nurse Deborah Monari, who endured eight misdiagnoses at a top Kenyan hospital, touched her heart.
Monari and her Nguvu Change Leaders team held an hour-long meeting with Nakhumicha's representatives, who declared that her office will be a steadfast advocate for a healthcare system to protect patients.
“Our dedication towards patient rights and safety extends beyond mere rhetoric, with concrete actions taken to prioritize patient involvement in policy formulation, governance structures, safety protocols, and their own individual care," stated the CS.
The engagement came roughly a month after Monari lodged a petition at the Ministry seeking action in actualising the set-up of Patient Rights Committees. She argued that the misdiagnoses stretched for months and subjected her to financial strain and emotional turmoil.
Among the issues raised by the organisation were establishing and reinforcing patient rights committees, creating hospital departments to monitor patient complaints and creating a toll-free hotline to report discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Others were initiating awareness programs targeting all healthcare staff cadres and establishing more mental health service departments in hospitals to end the stigma around mental health.
“Our campaigns are the collective voices of Kenyan citizens who are appealing to work with the government in building strong policies and systems around patient care," Deborah Monari, Nguvu Change Leader, noted.
We appreciate the commitment that CS Nakumicha has shown towards giving patients a platform for advocating for our rights."
She noted that her struggles began in January 2022 with a severe headache, but an attempt to seek treatment locally fell flat. The consultants she visited while in Kenya diagnosed her with panic attacks and charged her exorbitantly.
"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."
In India, her scans established that she was suffering from a brain tumour and surgery was immediately scheduled. It was successful.
In mid-July, with support from Nguvu Collective, the nurse launched an online petition on the Change.org platform, which has since collected 6,355 signatures with the aim of stopping medical malpractice by establishing patient rights committees in health institutions.