Driving into the city is such a hassle for me — Nairobi city, that is. And I am not even talking about the traffic. My main reason for literally steering clear of Nairobi is parking. First it is virtually impossible to get a parking spot near whichever building you are visiting. But my greatest headache is with the entire parking culture.
In a perfect world, I would drive into the city knowing I have to part with Sh300 to the County government as parking fee. That’s okay. We should be ready to pay for parking when we venture out into the city, or leave your car at home if you think the figure is too high. But this is not an ideal world, and Sh300 is the least of your concerns.
First, even after paying for the parking through official channels, you still have to deal with the self-designated parking attendants lurking around street-side parking areas. For the unsuspecting motorist, you will easily fall for their charm as they direct you to an open spot. Some will even move a car so that you can park. How kind of them.
However, the unspoken agreement is that this is not a free service and you will eventually pay for it, sometimes dearly, despite never asking for it and never being given the choice to opt out. It is a strange form of imposed courtesy, which is not really a courtesy but an elaborate scam.
Yes, I strongly believe they are scams. Some will argue that some of these “parking boys” are lifesavers. This is especially when you are only in town for a few minutes or hours and you don’t see the need to pay the entire daily fee.
For just Sh50 (or Sh100 if you’re feeling particularly generous), these “boys” will take care of you car until you come back. They will also deal with any government parking attendants that may show up attempting to clamp your car. The other added advantage of employing the services of these boys is that your car will be safe (from them).
Sometimes the parking boys and the government parking officer are one and the same person. For a subsidized fee of Sh100, you can park your car without paying for parking through normal channels and the officer will pocket the money.
Death by parking
Anyway, in order to avoid all these hassles and mind-games, many Nairobians opt to either park their vehicles in enclosed parking yards or somewhere on the outskirts of the city. These may include hotels, residential blocks with extra parking, some office buildings, malls, and increasingly lately, hospitals.
Yes, hospitals. Why do you think the Aga Khan, MP Shah and now Nairobi Hospital started charging parking fees? Because parking is a lucrative money mint, although they will tell you that they charge in order to curb illegal parking — that is, people who leave their cars at the parking lot but have no business in the hospital.
Why these places have not attempted solutions like parking validation to deal with this menace beats me. Making genuine patients have to deal with parking issues flies in the face of whatever mission statement any hospital brandishes in its signage. You see, when you charge parking at the hospital, you are saying that it is now okay for outsiders to park there as long as they pay for it.
The fact is, money is seldom a deterrent for those who park outside the city. Other factors such as convenience, saving the fuel spent in traffic, security of vehicle, also come into play. Parting with a few hundred shillings for parking is not going to stop them, because the alternative is to go into town and pay more money with slightly more headache.
I think hospitals should be ashamed of turning their parking spaces into a cash cows at the expense of patient comfort and convenience, and sometimes even life!
Speaking of hospitals, I hate going to those places, for reasons other than the parking situation. I am one of those people who has to be dragged to the hospital or get there unconscious on a stretcher. Like many men I know, I would rather sleep it off or wait it out.
That’s why it was sort of a big deal when I drove myself to the hospital the other day. Good thing this is one of those rare hospitals that should be commended for their parking situation. Not only do they not charge parking fees, but they also have valet services if you need to rush into the building or if the parking lot is full when you get there.
I went to the hospital because I had this pain in my left leg; a rhythmic throbbing pain and nagging stiffness running from the hip down the thighbone. It wasn’t a muscle pain. I could flex my thigh muscles without any trouble as long as the leg was resting on something. The pain was in the bone.
I was worried because I could not trace its origin to any accident or incident. It wasn’t a result of pulling something or sleeping in an awkward position. It just showed up out of nowhere. I’m 31, for goodness’ sake, these strange joint pains shouldn’t be happening to me.
Anyway, being the “man” that I am, I decided to wait it out. But it wasn’t easing up. In fact, it was only getting worse. After a day of trying to ignore it, I started sweating profusely in bed at night; for two nights straight; something that I assumed was related to my body trying to deal with the pain.
I tried over-the-counter painkillers but these could only do so much. I gave in and took that weary trip to the hospital.
I was in and out of the doctor’s room in less than 2 minutes. I was barely into the second sentence of describing my “pain” and the doctor had already jotted down a prescription and dismissed me. I left the room feeling dissatisfied.
Have you ever felt like that when you visited the doctor? Here you are all ready to describe your harrowing experience only for the doctor to shut you down with a dismissive wave.
“I’ve been having this pain in my hip bone, it’s not muscle pain, I think it’s inside, in the bone,” I began my account.
“How long ago did this start?”
“Last Friday… I have also been sweati…”
“How old are you? 30? You’re a young man, this shouldn’t bring you to the hospital,” said the doctor as he finished writing the prescription.
“You see, that’s just the the thing, doc. I hate hospitals. I would never com…”
“Here, take this to the pharmacy. And why are there so many people today? Is it because of Christmas? I haven’t even had lunch,” he said as he rose up and started walking around his desk towards the door, my cue for me to leave.
I walked out of the room feeling both dispirited and disrespected. What if I actually have something serious? Shouldn’t I get an x-ray? Did he get that this pain was in the bone and not your usual muscle pain? What about the night sweats? Isn’t that weird?
Don’t you just hate it when that happens? I came to this private hospital and paid that hefty consultation fee because I knew I will be given the attention I deserved. The least I could get was a fair hearing, right?
Makes me wonder about all those cases of misdiagnosis that we hear in the news. There is this report by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board that has recorded over 880 cases of doctors who misdiagnosed their patients illnesses in the past 20 years.
That’s a huge number, and these are just the cases that have been reported to the board. What if I end up in this statistic? I have heard of people whose lives were turned upside down after being misdiagnosed with HIV, or the many people who have died due to a wrong diagnosis followed by wrong medication which was discovered too late.
That doctor should have at least heard me out, if only to calm my own anxieties — or am I supposed to see a different doctor for that? Is that why physicians don’t bother with clear communication between them and their patients, because that is the work of a psychologist?
Medicine is not an exact science, and it is worrying how much of the diagnostic process depends on the patient’s ability to interpret and articulate what they are feeling to the doctor. There is definitely something to be said about hearing the patient out. I was’t willing to let this one go without a fight.
I walked out of the hospital with my sachet of assorted drugs and locked eyes with the valet who had my car key. As I drove out, I started thinking back at what just transpired. First, the waiting room was crowded, which was unusual for this hospital. One of the attendants at the insurance desk had even mentioned that the surge was unusual. The place is “normally not this crowded”, she said.
Perhaps I am just overreacting. Perhaps the doctor knew exactly what he was doing and the moment I said the first sentence, he knew what was wrong. Perhaps this was just a case of my lack of medical expertise clashing with the doctor’s expertise and experience. I should just relax and trust the doctor knows what he is doing.
Meanwhile, the medicine he prescribed seems to be working. Maybe I should just focus on changing the things that I can change and let other professionals do their thing.
Yet I can’t help but notice that it is professionals who make the decision to set up paid parking in hospitals. It is professionals who go to work drunk or hungry or without enough sleep. All of the problems in every professions can usually be traced back to, you got that right, professionals.
In other words, professionals are people too, and people make mistakes. People get distracted, they get tired and they also get corrupt and greedy. Because of this reality, making this world and its systems work the way they ought will take all of us. Be it the parking situation in the CBD or the visit to the doctor for that strange pain in my leg.