Robert Kariuki was turned away from various hospitals because his temperature was above 39 degrees.
Kariuki, had not undergone the Covid-19 test but he had all the symptoms including shortness of breath, dry cough, a rather high temperature, yet hospitals could not admit him.
One facility, he said, could not allow him use their restrooms.
Speaking to the Star, Kariuki had a Sh500,000 health insurance cover but that did not matter when seeking treatment.
Insurance companies are not covering Covid-19 related illnesses which puts a lot of people at a loss since they cannot afford the tests. NHIF too is not covering Covid-19 related tests.
The visibly ill Kariuki was yet to take a Coronavirus test when he was turned away at two Nairobi hospitals. In fact, he said, no one suggested a virus test.
On June 26 he was rained on on his way back home. He is a resident of Kiambu county.
But it was on Monday, that the symptoms kicked in. He had a persistent dry cough and muscular aches every time he coughed.
On the fifth day, he sought help at a hospital near Kiambu. Here, a pneumonia test came back positive and was on his way home.
“…I went to a hospital near Kiambu and the doctor recommended chest x-ray and some tests for pneumonia, which was positive.
“No one ever suggested a Covid-19 test. The cough worsened, and became more frequent, especially if I moved suddenly or took a heavy breath.
“My body temperature also started rising. I took lemon and water, and this helped a lot,” he said.
On July 1 he sought help at Nairobi Hospital where Dr Kimani Gicheru recommended a blood test to confirm whether it was bacterial or viral pneumonia.
Unfortunately, the hospital could not admit him because at the time, it was full.
The next day, Kariuki tried to seek treatment at Mater Hospital. Here he was turned away after his temperature read 39 degrees.
“The nurse who took the temperature readings called the admitting doctor to see if there was space for me. He said they were full and advised I should look for another facility.
“I asked for first aid instead, and they said they don’t have the capacity to treat Covid-19 patients. This was the first time I was being identified as a Covid-19 patient. I begged for about 30 minutes. They took my number and name. I think I was blacklisted.
“At this point, I had lost appetite because the only thing I could taste was warm water,” he recounted.
Not giving up hope, Robert Kariuki proceeded to Nairobi West Hospital. His temperature at the gate read 39.5 degrees.
He consulted with a medic inside the facility who informed him that their isolation unit was full.
“I stepped out of the car and leaned on it and begged with them to admit me, but they said their wards were full. I even begged to use a toilet but they refused. God, what do I do now?
“It was clear I might have Covid-19. I had heard media reports that KU (Kenyatta University Teaching, Research and Referral) Hospital was full.
“But I was still going to try. So I decided to go rest at home, pick up clothes and travel there the following day,” he continued.
On that same day, his condition worsened, he recalled.
“At 7pm I was running out of breath, sweating and feverish. I was rushed to Avenue Hospital because I had been treated there in the past,” he remembered.
Here, he said, the medics were helpful and demanded that he take a Covid-19 test.
Taking the nasal test was a struggle “because every time I opened my mouth wide, I coughed. The deep nasal swab was painful. It’s like they tore through a membrane.”
Then, he was still at the waiting room because the isolation ward was still full. Other hospitals like MP Shah, KU, Radiant, Nairobi West and Mater were still not admitting.
“At 3am on July 3, one patient in isolation was moved to the recovery unit, and so a bed was available. My lungs were 40 per cent operational, which means if I had stayed home that night, I might have died,” he recounted.
“My tests came positive and I was moved to the general Covid-19 ward. I stayed on oxygen for three days. I was drinking a lot of fluids but eating was a struggle. Sleeping was difficult because the oxygen is constantly being pumped into your nostrils, and the ventilator is noisy.”
On July 8, a much better Kariuki was discharged but had a Sh190,000 bill hanging over his head.
His insurer was contacted at 9 am but only responded at 7 pm informing the hospital that they could only cover the costs accrued before he tested positive for COVID-19.
The insurance company was willing to settle a Sh35,500 only.
“So I slept at the hospital one more night and incurred extra costs,” he stated.
Fortunately, he managed to secure a loan to cover the hospital bill, an expensive loan, he added.
“It still angers me that insurance companies are abandoning their Covid-19 patients yet I have a statement from Commissioner of Insurance Godfrey Kiptum, dated March 13, assuring Kenyans insurers would pay for coronavirus treatment,” he added.
Kariuki noted that his family has been in isolation for 14 days back at home because he could not afford Sh50,000 for their tests.
But they are doing well, he said.
He also mentioned that being overweight could have worsened the situation. Now, he is trying to lose 15kgs.
Coronavirus cases have continued to rise exponentially after restrictions were relaxed and people allowed to move around freely
As of Tuesday, the toll stood at 14,168 with 6,258 recoveries and 250 deaths.