Nairobi News


CITY GIRL: Someone tell government, passion and calling do not pay bills

By NJOKI CHEGE December 9th, 2016 3 min read

In September 2014, while on a trip to Turkana, I met a young man. His name is Edward Munene. I found him at the Loreng’elup Health Centre in Loreng’elup village, some 60 kilometres from Lodwar town.

Munene, only 26 then, had just completed nursing school and been posted to Turkana. He was the only medic at the health centre, serving over 3,000 villagers all by himself.

The young graduate of Murang’a Medical Training College was the doctor, nurse, midwife, pharmacist, cook, counsellor, cleaner, tea boy and messenger, all rolled into one.

Munene told me that on a typical day, he would be at the health centre by 7.00am to find a line of sick people waiting for him. He had no weekends or public holidays. Even his nights were often interrupted by emergencies in far, far away villages beyond the sandy plains of Loreng’elup village.

When we got there, we found Munene busy. He was attending to a queue of patients who had walked tens of kilometres to get to Loreng’elup. Pregnant women, sick babies, coughing old men and women, all depended on Munene to interpret and heal their maladies.


The health centre was not only grossly understaffed, but also grossly underequipped. The only equipment available was donated by a local corporate.

I felt sorry for Munene. I wrote his story with a heavy heart, knowing that there are so many Munenes out there in our public hospitals and in far flung villages striving to make do with a meagre salary in tough situations.

I felt guilty at how horribly we treat our doctors and medics in general, yet their lives are all about sacrifice.

You see, when you are a doctor and are sent to remote areas like Turkana, the only thing you have to your name — besides your degree — is your resilience. You are kept alive by hope. Audacious hope. You are thrown into the deep-end and you toughen up on the job.

Because you are a rookie, you approach the job with understandable apprehension, praying to your God that you don’t lose that patient or that newborn you are just about to deliver. God gave us doctors because he could not be on earth personally.

Which is why I am angered by the aloofness and detachment with which our government is treating our doctors. How it is treating one of this country’s most selfless group of professionals, all the while dismissing them with flimsy, lazy arguments like “medicine is a calling”.


It is a shame, that as a country, we raise children drilling into them that success is being a “doctor” while we pay our doctors so little that they cannot afford to foot their own bills.

It takes six years of blood, sweat and tears to mint a doctor. It takes another four years to get a specialised doctor. Many are admitted into med school, few make it. But the few that make it we treat so badly, we make that effort seem useless.

Passion and calling does not pay bills. Doctors, just like the rest of us, are humans. They have families to feed and children to educate. Also, ahem, Mr President, they have taxes to pay.

Our President and his troop of charlatans (except Matiang’i) should be very ashamed of themselves for the casual manner in which they are handling our health sector, doctors included.

Yes, Mr President, I know you have never been to a public hospital and I know your health and that of your family is handled by only the best doctors on planet earth.

Yes, I know that your kin may never require the services of the likes of Munene because you people practically own the entire country. And then some more.

You probably don’t “get” why Kenyans have to line up in public hospitals only to find that there are no doctors. I mean, what is a queue to a President?


You, Mr President, need to do the right thing. Pay our doctors and treat them with the respect they deserve.

Meanwhile, dear Kenyans, I would like to bring to your attention the wind of change that is sweeping this continent. Gambians got angry and kicked out that clown of a president, Yahya Jammeh. Ghanaians decided they had had enough and showed Mahama the door.

Sometimes I think we make too much noise on social media and forget to make noise at the ballot. Wakiendelea hivi, let us show these guys who is boss. Over to you, Kenyans.

PS: I know this column is unlike the City Girl you are all used to. Maybe I got born again, I don’t know. What I do know is that I turned a year older yesterday … Happy 17th birthday to me. I am not old enough to vote yet!