NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan doctors on Wednesday decried the death of a 28-year-old physician from COVID-19 as the latest example of dangerous and unjust working conditions in government hospitals.
Stephen Mogusu was employed on a temporary contract and was never paid for the five months he worked in a COVID-19 ward at a public hospital in the town of Machakos, doctors who knew him told Reuters.
Mogusu told Kenya’s Nation newspaper after falling ill that he could not afford diapers for his 5-month old daughter.
Now his body is lying in the hospital morgue instead of being released to his family because his wife, another doctor, can’t pay the bill of more than 1 million Kenyan shillings ($9,000), according to a letter the Kenya Medical Association shared with Reuters.
Colleagues say Mogusu’s family are the latest victims of a healthcare system that is sending medical staff to treat COVID-19 patients without adequate protection, failing to insure them for treatment if they fall ill, and not paying wages.
He is the 14th doctor to die of the virus since it was detected in Kenya in March, according to the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, leading them to call for a strike beginning Dec.7. They suspended it for two weeks to give time for more talks with the government.
“The life and death of the young doctor summarizes all that is wrong with government engagement with doctors,” Simon Kigondu, secretary general of the Kenya Medical Association, told Reuters.
The health ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Angry medical students and doctors held a vigil outside the Health Ministry in Nairobi on Wednesday.
“It’s not worth dying for this system. If I could tell anything to my younger self, it would be don’t join medicine,” said Amina Mohammed, a former classmate of Mogusu.
Kenya recorded 561 new cases and 7 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said, out of a total of 89,661 cases and 1,522 deaths.
The virus is now spreading into rural areas where the public health system is creaking and scarce ICU units are full and turning patients away, medics told Reuters. [L8N2I932E]
A former classmate of Mogusu told Reuters at the vigil: “We are the care givers and protectors of this country, yet we are treated like trash.”
($1 = 111.3000 Kenyan shillings)
Reporting by Edwin Waita; Additional reporting and writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Alexandra Hudson
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