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Daily Nation : February 19th 2014
DAILY NATION Wednesday February 19, 2014 Opinion 13 DECONGESTION | Ng’ang’a Mbugua Want to end traffic nightmare in city centre? Try some radical proposals the policeman at the intersection signals you to drive on as other motorists, whose light is green, are kept waiting. That, however, is not the most glaring peculiarity of the city. That honour goes to the number of personal vehicles driven into the central business district every morning, creating one of the longest trains of private cars on any African road. The reason this happens is not difficult to fathom. Public transport in the city collapsed the day the last KBS bus had its wheels removed and their place taken by what we in Kenya call “nine-by-nine” building bricks. What this has meant is that commuters whose homes are not anywhere near a railway line have to find alternative methods of getting to work. In the recent past, the challenge has not been to get to work on time but to get there at all. This, in turn, has led many Y residents of the city and its environs in areas like Kiambu, Thika, Athi River, and Ngong to find alternatives that work. Since matatus are not always reliable or available, those who can afford car loans do the next best thing — they borrow money to buy private vehicles whose primary use is to take their partial owners to ou know you are in Nairobi when the traffic lights turn red but CBD, the city commuter train has not been the most attractive mass transit option. There had been proposals to link the railway system with an intercity bus service but this plan has remained just that, a plan. Since Kenyan leaders A motorist pays parking fees to a Nairobi City County employee. work. The result, as the Kenya Revenue Authority will tell you, is that every year close to 180,000 private vehicles are registered in Kenya. Many of them spend the better time of their active duty parked in the central business district of Nairobi, waiting to take their owners home at the end of a day’s work. The only exceptions are Sundays, when the vehicles gobble up all the parking spaces outside churches. So severe has the problem become that last week, the Cabinet thought it was time to do something about it. But what can be done? For many years, the city has not had a train system that works. Partly because the carriages are overcrowded and partly because the railway station sits on the fringe of the have discovered a new passion of visiting all manner of countries to learn how to “benchmark best practices”, as they say, they could be advised to visit Athens, which, besides having an efficient bus and train transport system, also has a code for regulating the entry of private cars into the city. The system is simple. On given days of the week, vehicles whose plates end with even numbers are prohibited from entering the CBD. On others, those ending with odd numbers are locked out. This is one of the lessons the managers of the city need to learn. If they were raising parking fees to reduce the number of cars in the CBD, then they have failed because parking is still a problem. On the other hand, if the move was to raise revenues, then it was a masterstroke. However, the city fathers can have their cake and eat it if they can find a system of sieving vehicles based on registration. Secondly, the National Transport and Safety Authority — and a few MPs, of course — can travel to Tokyo, the city whose population is larger than Kenya’s. Every day, over 30 million workers make their way into and out of Tokyo. Incredibly, each one of them gets to work on time, thanks to the sophisticated system of overground, underground, and ground-level train services that are, in some places, complemented by a bus service. Tokyo, besides having the highest parking charges this side of the sun, has also been innovative in the way it uses limited parking space. Firms have built what looks like a series of crates into which cars can fit. Using a forklift, cars are parked safely and securely. In all likelihood, words like double-parking do not exist in the Japanese vocabulary. Finally, the government, if it is courageous enough, can implement a plan that it had threatened to introduce some few years back: Move some of its offices from the city. That way, all the city dwellers and villagers looking for birth and death certificates, title deeds, passports, or those seeking favours from their elected representatives do not have to converge in the limited space that is the CBD. In one fell swoop, traffic flow to the city would be stanched considerably. Question is, which ministry will be the first to go? firstname.lastname@example.org A bartender serves a customer in Nairobi. COSTLY DELAY. After trying for two days to repay HEALTH | Elesban Kihuba eports about medical malpractice are a common item in our media. The much-touted fatal unassisted births in public hospitals are just pointers of the suffering of patients and the poor quality of health services in Kenyan hospitals. A look beneath the surface raises a number of pertinent questions. Does the country have the right policies to drive quality hospital care and innovation? Has the country taken the right stance on the quality of care improvement? How many patients did hospitals hurt last year? Past government efforts to address the quality problem have mainly resonated around the access question: How do we increase the number of hospitals and beds in the country? Most counties have rushed to put up new hospital buildings and buy mega machines, a popular political solution which mainly results in cosmetic change. For instance, a hospital that was re- We need quality care, not more hospitals R Given the attention that health services attract, the right to information on quality of health services should be spearheaded by an independent organisation. How do you query hospital care in the absence of defined principles and standards? Can public hospitals be faulted for something they have decided not to do or have no plan to do? Should we continue to assume that quality concerns are the reserve of professional associations? Another key aspect of the quality of cently in the news because a baby died during delivery had been ranked the best a number of times in the past. This indicates that the fundamental question — do hospitals provide safe and timely care to Kenyans who need it? — has been systematically ignored. One of the contributing factors to this state of affairs is the lack of a comprehensive policy on the governance of quality of care. This begs the questions: care improvement process is that it is hungry for information. We may be in the era of information, but our health sector lacks accurate “big data”. Nowhere is the data problem more clearly illustrated than in our inability to answer questions like: Which hospitals have good outcomes for patients? How many patients were mistreated and hurt in our hospitals? How many patients were readmitted? Lack of such information compromises the ability of hospitals and their staff to provide quality care. More importantly, it erodes patients’ power and role. What is the role of patients in the proc- ess? If a broad definition of the quality of care improvement process is applied, then the patients are the nexus. In a fundamental sense, patients should improve or change their taste for services so that hospital care can improve. It is a wake up call for patients and citizens if the social contract on quality of care is to change. The call for patient participation in quality improvement is not a chimera. Indeed, countries that care about patients’ dignity invest to improve their powers and role. So, how do we move forward? As affirmed in our Constitution, transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of our social fabric. Our governments (both county and national) should embrace these principles in the management of health care. Given the sensitivity and attention that health services attract, the right to information on the quality of health services should be spearheaded by an independent organisation, as is best practice across the globe. Parliament should consider making these provisions in the Health Bill that is expected to be tabled soon. By Dr Kihuba, is a health systems researcher with SIRCLE. (email@example.com) his M-Shwari loan and continually receiving messages from Safaricom saying the service was experiencing delays and that he should try again after 10 minutes, Anthony Mugo was terribly frustrated, but the worst was to come. He adds: “I finally received a message indicating that my loan was overdue and had been rolled over to next month, which means paying more interest. Is someone trying to reap where he has not sown?” His contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. TRAFFIC NIGHTMARE. Nairobi’s Lang’ata Road has become a nightmare, with heavy traffic jams starting as early as 6am, moans David Jasondu. Part of the reason, he explains, is the diversion on the Southern Bypass next to Uhuru Gardens, but the other is the increasing population. “The mass exodus to Ongata Rongai has brought so much traffic to Lang’ata Road that even the new bypass and the interchanges will not clear the mess.” Jasondu is urging the authorities to open other routes to the city centre to ease pressure on Lang’ata Road. ARTISTIC TOUCH. What is even more annoying about the demolition of the Sikh community monument in Kisumu Town is the brazen and thoughtless destruction of a beautiful piece of art, says Gathoni Kuria. This, to Gathoni, is the best proof that many Kenyans do not appreciate art. “The sculpture, which symbolised a woman worshipping, was a fine piece of art. It did not look like an idol and had added some artistic touch to the lakeside town.” Her contact is email@example.com. Have an art-loving day, won’t you! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Watchman, POB 49010, Nairobi 00100. Fax 2213946. THE CUTTING EDGE BY THE WATCHMAN CHALLENGE. The newly opened 40-acre Macha- kos People’s Park, which has an amphitheatre, a miniature golf course, and a swimming pool that the county government hopes will bring in Sh100 million in earnings annually, is a commendable project, says Dave Mungai. This, he adds, should be a challenge to other governors, some of whom are already earning notoriety for stealing public funds, while others have introduced high fees and other levies for services, including funerals, to up their game as well. His contact is email@example.com. NEGLECTED. The once highly rated former town clerk John Gakuo, now the Nairobi City County government executive in charge of water, sanitation and environment, seems to have lost steam or gone into deep slumber in his new job, charges GMT Ottieno. “You only need to look at the flyovers at the National Museum, on Forest Road, Pangani, and the Globe Cinema to see what I mean. They are covered in rubbish that blocks storm drains. With the rains, the pools will be a nuisance. Aren’t these bridges supposed to be swept?” His contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. HEINEKEN MOMENT. Heineken East Africa boss Koen Morshuis, pitying Frederick Iraki, whose wallet was stolen at a popular bar in Hurlingham, Nairobi, is offering to help make up for the loss the best way he knows how. Says he: “We are happy to offer a case of cold Heineken for him to enjoy with his friends on his next visit to Sailors’ Pub. We believe that a Heineken moment should always be enjoyed to the fullest. This definitely did not happen due to the unfortunate incident Mr Iraki suffered.” His contact is koen.morshuis@ heineken.com.
February 18th 2014
February 20th 2014