By Winnie Kabintie

A local film based on a true story that depicts the sorry state of the ailing public healthcare was feted as the “BEST MOVIE” at the just concluded 2018 African Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA) in Lagos, Nigeria.

18 Hours is not your ordinary drama, it’s a film that is inspired by true life events and revolves around a distressing story of a hit and run victim, Alex Madaga, who made headlines in 2015 when he was forced to contain in an ambulance for 18 good hours since he could not get an ICU bed at the country’s National referral Hospital since it was full to capacity while private hospitals refused to admit him because he had no medical insurance.

Madaga, sadly, ended up dead hours later and Kenyans in the typical fashion caused uproar on social media under the hashtag #JusticeForMadaga and days later, the story was overtaken by other issues and long forgotten.

According to the film’s writer and director, Kevin Njue, when he read Malaga’s story in the newspaper he was depressed that such an incidence could happen in the country and he was inspired to do a film that would change the situation.

It was on October 5th, 2015, I will never forget that date. As I read the story in the newspaper, I kept asking myself; how could such an incident happen in our country? it was not right, it was not supposed to happen. So I asked myself what I could do as a Kenyan to stop this from happening. And that is how the film came about,” Njue said. 

In total, 18 hours bagged three major awards, becoming one of the major winners of the night. The film’s editor, Mark Main, went won the award for Best Picture Editor and the film also bagged the Best East African Movie award.

The Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards is the most prestigious film and TV awards in Africa.

Good for the crew! By all means kudos for a job well done but back to reality; there is no glamour, actually there is no dignity in the country’s public healthcare sector, which has been on a sick bed for decades.


The ‘right to the highest attainable standard of health’ including ‘the right to healthcare services’ is enshrined in the new constitution.

Unfortunately, for most Kenyans, the healthcare that is ‘attainable’ is mainly of the lowest standard and access to good medical facilities has been a privilege only the rich enjoy as majority of wananchi cannot afford it.

Local medics have been on record downing their tools in demand for better facilities but the government has always downplayed the strikes to just calls for more pay.

Health Policy

The country’s health policy 2012-2030 outlines the guidelines of improving the overall status of heath in Kenya with two main goals;

1. Contribution to economic development as envisioned in the Vision 2030.

2. Realisation of fundamental human rights as preserved in the constitution.

Eight years down the line, Patients in public hospitals continue to be subjected to strained facilities; in some cases they have to share beds or sleep on the floor or wait in line for months just to see a specialist doctor.

I was shocked to be confronted with leg fractures patients sharing beds and some sleeping on the floor at the Moi Referral Hospital, Eldoret last month; 53 years after independence!!

Medical Tourism

Public hospitals are run down with inadequate medical personnel and facilities, a situation that has seen the private health sector boom, at least for the few Kenyans that can afford it while for our leaders, flying abroad for treatment has been the tradition.

The irony is that, when Politicians of all political hues seek treatment abroad, even for simple ailments as fixing broken nose bruises, most of them end up at public hospitals in these countries!

While it’s within everyone’s right to seek treatment where they deem fit, Kenya’s dilapidated healthcare system is unlikely to be fixed whilst our politicians and opinion former’s have that option and the ordinary Kenyan does not.


President Uhuru Kenyatta in his 2013 pre-election manifesto, promised to among other things ensure that “every Kenyan has access to high quality healthcare and to make Kenya an international medical hub”.

He among the key things said that he would;

  • Focus on preventive healthcare by employing more health officers, and through the provision of clean water and protection of the environment among other measures.
  • Expand health coverage to achieve free primary healthcare for all Kenyan by 2030 as well as reform the NHIF to uproot corruption.

Well, was this achieved in his first term in office? Your guess is as good as mine.

Healthcare is now part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s much touted Big Four Agenda where he has once again reiterated the quest to provide affordable universal healthcare but only time can tell if this will be achieved this time round.


Even with the notable increased uptake of The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), the government should ensure that all members get value since the current scheme works more in favour of civil servants especially for the outpatient package.

Quite notably though, there has been great progress made on maternal healthcare under the “Linda Mama” initiative that guarantees free maternity and we hope the same efforts can be channeled to secure QUALITY and AFFORDABLE healthcare to all citizens across the board.