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How fear of cartels made top choice doctor decline KNH CEO job

The medical doctor selected to act as the chief executive officer of Kenyatta National Hospital declined the role for fear of standing against cartels that have been blamed for plunder of the referral facility.

Dr John Ong’ech, a senior gynaecologist and obstetrician appointed to take over from the suspended executive officer, Lilly Koros, told the Nation on Wednesday that the job involves stepping on too many political toes.

Dr Ong’ech said he could not take up the job because the tenderpreneur cartels are interested in controlling the institution’s budget that runs into billions of shillings.


“This is a job of managing a budget of almost Sh15 billion per year and 4,000 staff. It also has unlimited access to power and influence.

“I declined based on the history of previous CEOs who did not have a good ending,” Dr Ong’ech said in an exclusive interview.

He said he would still serve as a gynaecologist to improve the lives of women.

“Service to our people is an honour and privilege, which I will continue doing even without being the CEO,” he said.

Dr Ong’ech’s admission puts the KNH hot seat in the same league as that of the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, as well as a number of parastatals.

In most of these, both political and commercial forces plot to sway the managements’ decisions in their favour.


He cited an incident where a former CEO was reportedly pulled from his house at gunpoint, and claimed that previous office holders left the institution under a cloud of controversy, often influenced by politics.

“I am not ready to replace the suspended KNH boss Koros,” Dr Ong’ech said.

Since the suspension of Dr Koros a week ago by Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, political intrigues have come to the fore, with 124 MPs signing a petition to have the CS removed.

Leaders from Dr Koros’ Rift Valley region have also opposed the suspension, saying there was more to it than the mix-up that ended with the wrong person undergoing brain surgery mid last month.

Dr Ong’ech was recently appointed by CS Kariuki in an acting capacity after she sent the KNH chief executive, her deputy Bernard Githae, and the director of clinical services on compulsory leave to allow for investigations into the matter.

This followed public uproar over the medical malpractice.

Ms Kariuki had announced that Dr Ong’ech would oversee the management of the hospital in an acting capacity.


She also appointed Dr Thomas Mutie as acting Director of Clinical Services. The CS later tinkered with the appointments, making Dr Mutie acting CEO.

Mr Mark Bor, chairman of KNH Board of Management, later announced Peter Masinde as the acting Clinical Services Director.

Dr Ong’ech said the hospital’s top job was a risk he was not ready to take.

“I requested the board to allow me to decline the appointment.”

Ms Koros’ predecessor, Richard Lesiyampe, was appointed PS in the Environment ministry in 2015, before moving to the Agriculture Ministry.

Dr Lesiyampe had been appointed in 2011 from the Kenya Wildlife Service where he held a senior position.

He was appointed by then Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o to replace Dr Jotham Michemi, whose contract expired in 2010.