As some of you may know, things have come to seed in my head in the recent past. As some other ones may know, I am not currently swimming in a pool of cash. So when I needed some mental health help, I went to the nation’s shorthand for such services. Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital.
Two things struck me when I got there. The vast grounds (it feels like a maze) and the high staff/student to patient ratio. It felt like everywhere one turned there was a doctor, nurse, security guard, student nurse or doctor. Usually in packs. Two buses full of student doctors arrived while I was there and if there is a group word for doctors, I’d say the most apt was swarm.
Yet, somehow, this didn’t speed up the service.
Like a lot of government health facilities, one has to pay for services before they are given (read: what cost-sharing looks like). Unlike a place like Kenyatta, though, there is only one payment point. That means queuing before every single procedure and it makes fairly fast processes take ages.
Because I was a first-timer (and had not been referred by another facility), I went through the outpatient clinic to get face time with a psychiatrist. This meant queuing at 0800 to pay the KSh 50 consultation fee and then waiting my turn at the outpatient clinic (which doubles as the child and adolescent psych clinic).
There was only one GP at hand when I got back and a nurse issuing registration cards for newbies. Ergo, no one to check patients’ blood pressure, temperature, or weight. The GP was quite friendly and did a good job of talking me through the tests she wanted to run but she’d made it clear in conversation with the nurse that she wanted to leave soon. You could feel it in the air; this urgency around being elsewhere.
Lab tests ordered meant a trip back to the cashier, a queue, and payment (maximum KSh 150 for tests) and a trip to the main lab which is at the farthest reaches of the hospital (a place ominously called ‘Maximum’).
What happened next will be revealed in Part 2.
Questions, comments, suggestions or thoughts on mental health? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂