Public health facilities lose land to private developers

Public institutions in Nakuru County are losing huge tracts of land to individuals, organisations and private developers.

Startling revelations made by a taskforce named to probe the status of the county’s health facilities by Governor Lee Kinyanjui paint a grim picture of emboldened grabbers who are now operating with impunity.

So resolute are some of the grabbers in retaining of irregularly acquired public utilities that they have perfected the art of seeking refuge in endless litigation through court orders and injunctions.

In some instances, sections of compounds with structures such as staff quarters, boreholes and gardens have been converted to private ownership and staff evicted.

In one of the most unsettling findings, Nakuru County morgue was stripped of all its four acres of land which has been subdivided into plots and allocated to private developers.

As if that was not enough, morticians within staff quarters in the premises were kicked out and the house allocated to non-staffers.

The 10 member taskforce that was headed by former Egerton University Vice Chancellor, Prof. James Tuitoek further queried how a public dispensary in Gilgil Sub County reverted to private ownership.

Land invasions and irregular occupations of health facilities in Nakuru County have for successive years presented a huge dilemma to various administrations.

Last year, the then, County Chief Officer of Health, Samwel Mwaura raised alarm over grabbing of land belonging to Molo and Bahati sub district hospitals.

We only realised that the land was grabbed when we started initiatives to expand some of the facilities, he stated then.

The report from the taskforce dubbed An Assessment of Health of Primary and Secondary Healthcare: Towards an efficient, cost effective health service delivery system, will now be tabled in the county assembly where Members of County Assembly (MCAs) will deliberate on its findings before approval for implementation.

Dr. Joy Mugambi, Tumme Abdalla and Joseph Kairu were vice chairperson, secretary and treasurer respectively. Other members were Sereni Kabera, Dr. Navi Dave, Dr. James Maina, Faith Milka, Simon Mutai and Suleiman Mbatiah.

The team noted that the Nakuru County morgue was usually overstretched and plans to give it a facelift have been hampered by the private developmental structures.

The facility has five acres of land earmarked for its expansion but four acres have been encroached onto by private developers. Within the facility, staff quarters are occupied by non-staffers who consume the morgue’s water and electricity, the report states.

At Rhine Valley hospital in Gilgil Sub County the taskforce noted that nurses who were staffed there were withdrawn and medical supplies from the government stopped when it reverted to private ownership in unclear circumstances.

This facility has a history of one time being a public utility. The taskforce sampled it because we were informed that Rhine Valley hospital is public property.

A month long investigation by the taskforce established that unscrupulous land prospectors were cleverly exploiting legal loopholes and failure by health facilities to secure title deeds and other land ownership documents.

The sad state of affairs, it was noted has spurred a litany of protracted land ownership tussles between county governments and local communities in courts.

The taskforce questioned how a private developer was granted the custody of title deed to the multi-million and ultra-modern Provincial General Hospital Annex, a well-known public facility since pre independence days.

Though one of the oldest public facilities standing on 1.5 acres of land, a private developer has laid claim on Nakuru West dispensary and fenced off its entire land. Prof. Tuitoek’s team established that the matter had escalated into court battles.

Governor Kinyanjui was startled to learn that despite being well established and largest facilities, Olenguruone, Molo and Naivasha Sub district hospitals sitting on 40, 22 and 19.5 acres respectively have been encroached on by private developers and lacked documents to prove ownership.

Naivasha sub-county hospital is the second largest referral facility after Nakuru Provincial General Hospital (PGH) and also serves Nyandarua, Narok and Kiambu counties.

Started in 1952, Nessuit dispensary lost its 9 acres of land to grabbers who left it with four acres in a swampy area that cannot be utilised.

The taskforce established that the facility was the busiest in the area and serves 300 outpatients daily therefore calling for its expansion.

At Bahati sub-county hospital that sits on an eight acre land, an individual laying claim to its ownership had built permanent structures on portions of the land while three acre land at Simboiyon health centre had been taken over by private developers.

Though recently constructed, and boasting of modern buildings and medical facilities, Total Health Centre though a public utility, stood on a land registered in the name of an individual, while despite having its status elevated, Njoro sub county hospital on a five acre of land lacked ownership documents.

Other facilities the taskforce identified as potential targets for grabbers as they lacked ownership documents include Baruti, Lalwet, Bondeni, Kihingo and Karunga dispensaries.

Others without ownership documents, include Maji Tamu, Rongai, Lelechwet, Eburru, Kiptagich and Sirikwa health centres.

At Mogotio health Centre the team found out that though the facility was owned by Nakuru County, it was unclear how Baringo County was collecting rent from its eight staff quarters.

On receiving the report, the governor warned land grabbers encroaching on public land that they risked prosecution and was categorical that it should never revert to private use.

There are a number of hospitals and dispensaries as well as other public amenities whose land has been grabbed and it must be put on record that once we start working we will recover all that and ensure the land reverts to the public.

The taskforce has provided evidence based recommendations that will help enhance and improve the efficiency of service delivery of health services in Nakuru County in a cost effective way.

Source: Kenya News Agency