Cartels force doctor to turn down KNH top job

Dr John Ong’ech. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Dr John Ong’ech. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A medical doctor picked to act as chief executive of Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) declined the role for fear that standing up against cartels blamed for plunder of the referral facility could ruin his career and endanger his life.

John Ong’ech, a senior gynaecologist, approached to replace suspended CEO Lilly Koros, said on Wednesday the job involves stepping on too many political toes.

He said there are cartels of ‘tenderpreneurs’ interested in controlling the institution’s budget that runs into billions of shillings.

“This is a job of managing a budget of almost Sh20 billion per year and 4,000 staff. It also has unlimited access to power and influence. I declined based on the history of previous CEOs who did not have a good ending,” said Dr Ong’ech in an interview.

He said he was contented with improving women’ lives while serving in his capacity.


“In my opinion, service to our people is an honour and privilege, which I continue doing even without being the CEO,” he said.

Dr Ong’ech’s summation puts the KNH hot seat in the same league as that of the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and many parastatals where forces – both political and commercial – scheme day and night to sway management decisions to their favour.  

Dr Ong’ech cited an incident where a former CEO was reportedly pulled from his house at gunpoint, and claims previous office holders left the institution under a cloud of controversy, often influenced by politics.

“I am not ready to replace the suspended KNH boss, Lilly Koros,” said Dr Ong’ech.

Last week Health secretary Sicily Kariuki sent Ms Koros on compulsory leave together with her deputy Bernard Githae and the director of clinical services to allow for investigations into a brain surgery mix up.

Beside’s announcing Dr Ong’ech’s appointment, Mrs Kariuki  also named Dr Thomas Mutie as acting director of Clinical Services.

The CS later tinkered with the appointments, making Dr Mutie acting CEO. Mr Mark Bor, chairman, Board of Management, KNH later announced Peter Masinde as acting clinical services director.

“I requested the board to allow me to decline the appointment,” said Dr Ong’ech.

Ms Koros’ predecessor Richard Lesiyampe was appointed PS in the Environment ministry in 2015, before moving to the Agriculture ministry.