Friday, November 30, 2007

High season for bungling doctors.

The number of bungling doctors around us seems to be on the rise. Granted, theirs may not be the only profession with careless or incompetent practitioners. They attract the limelight probably because their ineptness could very quickly lead to the death of person or lifelong incapacitation.

In the news yesterday, one such bungler had her practicing license revoked for mishandling a patient and thereby causing him brain damage. The young man had been brought in for a nasal surgery following an accident in his school playing fields. The doctor had administered to him inappropriate anesthesia.

The previous day, another careless incident by medics was in the news, this time involving the administration of a wrong combination of vaccines on another youngster. The young boy, Brian Kimutai, has been in a coma for several months with more than a million shillings already having been expended in bills.

The day before, news from across the border in Tanzania, had it that two young men had unnecessary surgeries performed on them after doctors in the hospital got the men’s names mixed up. In the ensuing cross operations, a brain surgery was performed on one who required knee surgery and vice versa! One of them now faces serious paralysis.

These may very well be just a tip of the iceberg as much more unprofessional clumsiness goes unreported. But times have changed and the days when doctors went about their duties unquestionably are long gone. Our lives are at stake and it is not late to become skilled at obtaining proper medical care and therefore be wiser medical consumers.

Medical practice is not as magical and revered as it once was. Get smart about your medical needs;

  • Ask questions and be observant. Ask “why?” Do not agree to procedures that do not make sense to you.
  • Learn the basics about tests and (especially) surgical procedures. Consider the risks and benefits of a procedure. Are there options? Get second opinions if you have doubts about proposed surgery.
  • Share in decisions about medication. Know why you need each drug before putting it in your mouth or applying it on your skin.
  • Find the right doctor/specialist and know their qualifications, training and experience.

Of course we would prefer not to get ill in the first place. So take good care of yourself but when you do fall ill make the effort to work in partnership with your doctor. Playing an active role in your medical care should be able to steer you clear of quacks.

A lot of helpful information can be fount at such sites as

A Cardinal or a burden?

Upon his arrival at Nairobi from the Vatican, newly appointed cardinal Njue said that his elevation was not only an honor to the country but also a burden that Kenyans must shoulder. A dubious honor I think and most certainly a burden.

This man is a politician in speech and body language. Typical of a politician, his gaffes begun on the day news of his appointment came through. Using a most inappropriate comparison, he declared that the news was like a bomb blast. And then, typical of political buffoonery, went ahead to weep as “I surrender myself” to the Vatican’s decision, “the most difficult time of my life”. With a war-like mindset he did not waste time to declare that “Kenya would plunge into tribal conflicts and wars” if it adopted a federal system of government.

That the appointment now makes him an ‘advisor’ to the pope seems comical to me. Methinks he is more in need of papal advice than the other way round. How will he manage to shepherd his flock with a partisan political bent? He could not even resist from firing an anti-Raila salvo while at the Vatican in the name of ‘defending his faith’ from some innocuous MoU. The limelight is just too intoxicating and he just must bask in it even for the least of edifying reasons.

“…my appointment is an honor for me, the country, the region and the world”… count me out. This is a burden.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gender parity by all means?

If the basis of agitation for gender parity in parliament is that women make up 52% of our population, then I think that goal is unlikely to be met. There’s excitement all round that for the first time in our history, more than 100 women have bee nominated to stand for parliamentary seats. There is also whispered agreement that this development is merely symbolic and valuable only for the psychological boost it gives to the fight against marginalization of women. Even the gender activists themselves are being quoted putting the expected success rate at no more than 20%.

Is there anyone who believes that any of the candidates is likely to be voted to parliament only because of their gender? No. Is there any of them who will be able to marshal all the women voters in her constituency to her side? No. It is neither feasible nor desirable. The elections are not about men versus women. It can never be. There will never be an issue that will unite either gender as one and pit it against the other.

To campaign for the attainment of gender parity is futile. Let all women who want to ‘fight’ for the seats do so without hindrance or favors on account of their gender. It is the leadership aptitude that matters, not waist matters to gain latitude.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Puzzling mix-up as missing pilot’s ordeal ends.

There’s relief all round that after eight days in the forests of Mt. Kenya, the KWS crash pilot has been ‘found’ and is presently recuperating at a Nairobi hospital with only a few broken bones.

Contrary to the anonymous comments on my earlier post about this unfortunate accident, my intention was not to discredit our armed forces and the rescue mission. Just a little cold water to stir them out of their lackluster action. As anonymous rightly pointed out, this was a man’s life at stake here. And to me, seven days is a rather long time for a properly trained force to come back empty handed from a rescue mission in a non-combat situation. Rough terrain? Are these not the same jungles in which they undertake some of their training? Ineptitude is ineptitude even if you decide to call it bad weather or rough terrain. Any wonder that the British army had to be called in to assist? And thanks to some slow thinking, a Safaricom team was finally asked to join the search mission, several days after they made it known that they had picked up signals from the lost major’s cell phone.

Grateful as we are that the pilot has been found alive, his colleagues continued to soil their bungling image by issuing strange contradictory statements upon the injured man’s arrival in Nairobi. One spokesman says the pilot found and walked his way to a forest station from where the rescuers picked him. The KWS director says the pilot was found at the crash scene! Who is down playing whose efforts and why?

Are these men getting appropriate training???

Best wishes to the retired but upbeat Major who says he’s hoping to be back in the skies as soon as he leaves hospital. A lesson on determination and tenacity. Although I think two drops from the skies in three years is not stuff for anyone’s CV.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mystery of missing pilot and chopper continues...

A week after a KWS pilot and his chopper were reported missing, neither has been traced, even after Safaricom confirmed having tracked his cell phone signals to some forest around the Mt. Kenya area. This raises the very likely possibility that the team on the rescue operation is either ill equipped or grossly inept for the mission. The unfolding hopelessness depicted in the updates from KWS spokesman darkens the cloud of mystery surrounding the whole episode.

Q. Why was the chopper being flown by a KWS pilot and not one from the owners KPLC?

Q. The sole passenger aboard, Minister Kuti, who was dropped in Isiolo has not been reported to have said a word since the incident. Is he in shock or just busy with his campaign schedule? Is no one in a hurry to ask him shed some light on any anomalies he may have noted with the chopper or the pilot on the flight?

Q. Was the pilot in communication with any ground control during the flight to and from Isiolo?

Q. Was the chopper fitted with locator equipment, which by now must surely be a mandatory industry standard? Or is this one of those shady contraptions purchased over the years by parastatals for ambiguous projects?

Do any of our armed forces have a professional rescue mission unit? The motley crews of rescuers seen on TV footage as they embarked on the mountain reconnoiter, armed with machine guns did not exude confidence and I do not want to imagine them in a combat situation. I also hope the missing Major has had some survival training to see him through the ordeal. When he comes out of the forest, he might want to find out who has ‘poured money to finish him’. Not long ago, while surveying the aberdares forest, he dropped from the skies with several CEO’s on board his chopper. Fortunately no one was injured.

Cross-border sorcerer to assist in polls?

These are indeed desperate times for local politicians. So soon after the short-lived Dick Morris debacle, we now see on national TV news of the impending arrival of a Tanzanian sorcerer to assist aspirants clinch victory in the December polls. Mercifully, the sly expert did not declare which campaign team was sponsoring his upcoming visit in which a mammoth serpent is among his accompanying assistants.

It has been ‘alleged’ for a long time that witchcraft has been among the whispered rules of engagement in the political arena. Rules that a court proclaimed repugnant and so disqualified one Musikari Kombo from electioneering a few years back for bringing them into play. The supposed witchdoctor never gave evidence, perhaps due to professional sanctions that guarantee ‘doctor’/client confidentiality. Presumably these ethics do not apply across the border or times have changed dramatically. Now, practitioners of the dark arts give interviews, publicize their itinerary and advertise on national TV with devious demonstrations of their skills. He does not quote his fee for the categories of aspirants he’ll be servicing but judging from the eager look in his eye and the manifestly large kitties in the polls, his Kenya harvest will be bumper.

Apparently, Dick and his ilk have to wait a little longer before their spin expertise become a vital part in the local game. Sorcery is not about to be discarded any time soon by our leaders and it is now even gaining acceptance by national TV stations as just another art form to be beamed into peoples’ homes at prime time. That citizens have a right to information is not in doubt. But methinks the screening of such bizarre arts is of dubious ethical value.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Trials of Brother Kajairo

Politics has beckoned and KJ, Kajairo and Mdomo Baggy have answered the call. Branding themselves as ‘Young Kenyans for Raila’, the three have been popular artistes in the nascent Kenyan entertainment industry that has just begun to show sparkling signs of growth. At some point I thought this was another industry stunt, akin to that of KISS FM in the previous election when the trio’s colleague, Nyambane, clowned around the city with his pilau party.

I think their decision to play politics is impulsive and retrogressive to Kenya’s artistic development. These young men had just begun to position themselves as models to other youth seeking to free themselves from dependency to crystallize their latent capabilities. To abandon this role suggests that perhaps they themselves were ignorant of their own potential to climb to a higher peak. To walk out on their fans is reckless. The ‘celebrity’ status has gotten to their heads and they are deluding themselves if they expect to transfer their stage charms to the political arena for leadership positions.

What is luring these young Kenyans to political leadership? To acquire fuel-guzzling road runners, saunter around with bodyguards, sleep at exclusive residential addresses? I most certainly hope not. It is nice to be young, but what advantage does it give one to manage the varied needs of a constituency? Unlike with fans at a show, interpersonal relationships here are of a complex design. It is one thing to charm crowds and ask them to “raise your hands and say yeah!” It is quite another to deal with the multiplicity of community wishes.

One can empathize with the frustrated feeling that the current parliamentarians have often let society down with their inability to solve or alleviate the extant hardships. But are political leaders the only ones obligated to do so? Celebrities elsewhere in the world are involved in mobilization of masses and funds, setting up projects and facilities for society and disadvantaged groups. And they do so much more successfully probably because of non-interference and involvement of parochial politicians. However, they are able to achieve this because they themselves first attain success in their careers. This is what these three should be working at.

KJ, Kajairo and Mdomo Baggy are not anywhere that can remotely be described as the peak of their careers. They are popular but they are yet to be successful. As artistes, they too have the capacity to mobilize for the implementation of whatever projects in their blueprints and still walk with their heads high, dignified and honorable. They do not have to go regaling the masses with political buffoonery and spewing unhelpful platitudes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

And Nakumatt said,"let there be light in Meru"!

It sounds strange that Meru town got its first street lights installed only last week, courtesy of Nakumatt Holdings. It is reported that Meru town residents were gripped with excitement and took quite some time marveling at the bright lights lining the town’s main highway. Minister Mwiraria was of course not to be left behind, profusely thanking Nakumatt and passionately appealing them to extend the lighting project right to the edges of the town.

Make no doubt about it, Mwiraria and his counterparts will be mounting PNU podiums in the next few weeks praising the taa ya maendeleo brought about by the government’s CDF program. But now we know that while they were engaged in the national duty of negotiating lease contracts with faceless vampires of no known abode, some socially responsible (or fast-footed enterprising) citizens were modernizing their village town for them. And Nakumatt, having agreed to extend the project, has probably given them a straw to clutch on during their vote seeking charades where they’ll ask for the next five years for kazi iendelee.

Are the Meru town residents now debating whether it is their waheshimiwa who bring them maendeleo or Nakumatt Holdings? In the meantime, a few of them could be visualizing the prospects of a stall or two for their beloved qat twigs outside the expansive Nakumatt shopping mall once completed.

Waheshimiwa is there any chance of installing Mr. Thiagarajan Ramamurthy (Nakumatt Operations Director) a Meru elder? He’s certainly done much more for the locals than the councils of haggard elders we recall imploring Kibaki to return Mwiraria to the cabinet!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Kenyan Insurance for California fires?

The marshalling of resources to fight the California bush fires and the massive evacuation operations was truly an educative demonstration in disaster management. It may not surprise anyone that no one from our myriad local ‘disaster management’ outfits took a flight to the US for close-up practical lessons. They most likely gathered crucial skills from the comfort of their sitting rooms or local pubs or wherever the CNN footage was beamed across the world. Do we have foresighted technocrats in the fire fighting departments, police, military, St. John’s, Red Cross et al, with the capacity to set up exchange/training programs with the battle hardened organizations out there? Or shall we remain content with sending appeals out there for assistance whenever disaster strikes our lands?

One of the most striking announcements during the California disaster was that insurance companies were already setting up desks at the evacuation centers to begin processing the victims’ compensation for home rebuilding! And I thought, haai, we are truly living in the third world. Insurance companies re-building razed houses? Thousands of them?

It reminded me of a household cover I took a while back with a local insurance company. When my cell-phone (also covered) was snatched from me by robbers right at my door in an enclosed compound the company refused to compensate. That is when the notorious fine lines were fished out from some policy document I’d never been shown before. That they only compensated phones damaged accidentally, like if it fell on the floor to pieces…in the house. Proving that would of course require an investigation report from their appointed detective - skilled enough to differentiate between an accidentally dropped phone from one carelessly tossed about. Well, they refused to pay and I bought a cheaper gadget the following week and life went on.

What will happen when my house burns down? Before even their clever detectives are called in, some insurance agent in a tie (even in the Mombasa heat) will have reminded you of the fine-print exclusion clauses. Arson, riot act, natural calamity, God’s act, electrical fault….. Do this people compensate anyone for anything? Except when they rush to the media to display cheques in payment for a matatu smash up.

They may well argue that tenants cannot be compensated for razed rental houses, but do they compensate the owner? If not, why not? If so, why not adjust premium payments to include the tenant’s exposure to the potential calamity? Surely this cannot be beyond actuarial mathematics.

And then this years salary survey places Insurance company executives among the top five most highly paid professionals in the country!