Four years ago on February 24, 2014, Lilly Koros strolled into the boardroom at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).
It was her big day. She was taking over as the new chief executive of the country’s largest public referral hospital.
Clad in a flowery maroon jacket and grey skirt, Koros’ maiden address to the hospital board and senior management as CEO was terse but full of promise.
“I have come in to enhance the achievements so far realised by my predecessors and support the realisation of the patient — centred hospital,” she told the forum as she took over the reins from Dr Simeon Monda who had acted in the position for eight months after the then CEO, Richard Lesiyampe, was appointed Environment PS in June 2013.
Having previously served as a hospital administrator at a facility run by the Africa Inland Church (AIC) in Litein as well as the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Koros was hopeful of a smooth sail in her new role.
Her confidence was further boosted by her stint as director of management services at the now defunct, Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution.
Koros’ academic qualifications also bolstered her boldness to take up the KNH job. She holds an Executive MBA(Finance), Bachelor of Commerce(Administration) and a Postgraduate Diploma(International Leadership in Hospital Management)
It was nonetheless not all smooth at the KNH for Koros. Her tenure at the referral hospital has been a tumultuous one — often leaving her in fire-fighting mode.
The past three months have particularly been nasty for the KNH. A series of scandals have added more dirt to its already soiled image.
In January, the KNH hit news headlines on claims of sexual harassment of new mothers at the facility. The claims drew the attention of Parliament, the Health ministry and the police but no word has come out of an inquiry that was ordered into the matter. The KNH management denied the allegations that were widely spread on social media.
“The allegations are in bad faith. We have written to the DCI (Directorate of Criminal Investigations) to investigate and if there is any truth then action will be taken,” Ms Koros said when the allegations broke.
“There is no single complaint that has been registered in such a case yet we have suggestion boxes,” she said.
A month later on February 18, KNH was again in the news for all the bad reasons after a three-week-old baby was stolen at the institution. The baby was later found in Kawangware, Nairobi, and reunited with its parents.
A suspect, Edinah Kemunto Mabuka admitted having stolen the baby from KNH — further ruining the image of the hospital, especially after a public outcry over the widespread rot at the referral hospital.
And so when surgeons at KNH wrongfully operated on the brain of Samuel Kimani Wachira following an identity mix-up last week, the Health ministry acted — it decided to send Ms Koros on forced leave pending investigations into the gaffe that caught global attention.
“That such an incident can occur at our biggest referral and teaching hospital is totally unacceptable, especially coming soon after other reported cases touching on patient safety in the last one month,” Health Cabinet secretary Sicily Kariuki said when she communicated the decision to suspend the CEO.
Besides the scandals, Koros tenure has also been marked by some of the worst industrial strikes with operations at the hospital grinding to a halt for months.
But not all has been gloom during Koros’ reign at the KNH.
Last month, a team of doctors from the facility reattached a patient’s hand that had been severed and chopped off in an accident.
Seventeen-year-old Joseph Theuri’s right hand was severed at the wrist while cleaning a chaff cutter. The patient underwent a seven-hour procedure at the KNH to re-attach his hand.
“Two teams were constituted with one team preparing the hand and the other team working on the stump. This was very important to save time,” Dr Wanjala Nang’ole who part of the medical that fought to save Theuri’s hand said.
The delicate procedure involved identification of blood vessels, nerves and tendons, aligning and fixing the bones, repairing and joining the arteries and the tendons.
In another milestone during Ms Koros’ tenure, surgeons at KNH in 2016 successfully separated conjoined twins in a 23-hour operation. The girls, named Blessing and Favour, were born in September 2014.
The twins shared a spinal cord, rectum, anus, some muscles, subcutaneous tissues and skin. Paediatric, neuro and plastic surgeons agreed that separation was feasible but it should wait until the twins were bigger to withstand the complex surgery.
Time will tell if Koros’ will resume work at the KNH or move to take other fresh challenges.