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Lenders cheered as Kenya binged on medical equipment. Did patients get help?


NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s health minister celebrated the delivery of a CT scanner at a large county hospital, telling journalists that sick patients could now be diagnosed locally.

A patient prepares to undergo a mammogram X-ray picture of the breast to look for early signs of breast cancer in the radiology unit at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

Nine months later, the scanner has never been used: the hospital has no radiologists. Patients must still travel 160 kilometers from central Nyandarua to Nairobi’s overwhelmed Kenyatta National Hospital, where getting scans can take months. Kenya won praise from international lenders in 2015 for launching Africa’s biggest public-private healthcare program, an unprecedented seven-year scheme to spend hundreds of millions of dollars leasing Medical Equipment from foreign firms. At the time, the World Bank described the program as a model that could be rolled out to other African countries, a cost-effective way to obtain expensive equipment that requires specialist staff and resources to service. But five years on, high tech machines are lying idle in more than a third of the hospitals that received them, according to data from the Ministry of Health and the doctors’ union. Critics say the program has worsened the country’s debt burden and diverted urgently needed resources from basic healthcare that would otherwise save lives. They warn that the same costly mistake…

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Lenders cheered as Kenya binged on medical equipment. Did patients get help?

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