By Beryl Okendo.
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) Medical Social work team spearheaded a family reunion for a patient who had been abandoned in the hospital for four months while undergoing treatment.
The patient, after being successfully managed and discharged, was left with nowhere to go due to neglect by family members. His is a tale of unhappiness, despair, and uncertainty that began after the mob justice.
Efforts by the JOOTRH’s medical social work team to contact the aunt and other family members were fruitless and vain. This prompted the dedicated workforce, with the help of the facility to waive the medical bill of 52,178 and plan how Evans would be reunited with his family.
Evans Odhiambo, 28, was admitted to Kisumu County Referral Hospital (KCRH) in October 2022 after escaping death at the hands of motorbike riders in Gem Wagai sub-county, Siaya County. Later he was referred to JOOTRH.
“Odhiambo persistently pleaded that we take him back to his home and every time I visited ward 8, my heart would sink at the sight of the lonely young man who was missing the warm air of home. My team and I, during our regular patient visit routine, would assure him that we were going to take him back home as soon as we could. So, after fruitless efforts of tracing his family members, we decided that we would do our uttermost best to ensure that Odhiambo was back to his home, safe and sound,” says Mrs. Eunice Gor, Head of the JOOTRH Medical social work Department.
The young man who has been epileptic for the past ten years had been having recurrent mental breakdowns that would lead to him being aggressive and violent towards everyone around him, making him unwanted and secluded in the community and even sometimes beaten.
His previous episode caused more than harm to him when he attacked a group of pupils who were on their way from school. The children, both male, and female reported the case to their teacher, who in turn called on motorists who were ignorant of the fact that the youthful man might be mentally unstable.
The motorists beat him to a pulp and he was only rescued by the police who recognized him with the help of neighbours and called his aunt.
Odhiambo is just one among many members of the communities who the JOOTRH’s social work team has rescued and aided to lead normal lives once again.
JOOTRH believes that care goes hand in hand with compassion. This is the notion that has fueled the JOOTRH Medical Social Work team’s activities, leading not only to successful stories but also inspirational and impactful stories.
Roselyn Awour arrived at the police station and could barely recognize her nephew who was now on the verge of losing his life. With the help of the police, she managed to rush him to the Kisumu County Hospital in time to be saved, where he was admitted. After review by the medical team, he was referred to JOOTRH, where he was diagnosed with Convulsive disorder and admitted to ward 8 on the 24th of October 2024.
Efforts to seek assistance from close relatives and friends had proven fatal and they could not even pick up her calls leave alone send any assistance. Left with no other option, she decided to neglect her nephew while also nursing herself.
Odhimbo was discharged on 14th December last year after successful treatment and management of his case. His aunt on the other hand, having no medical insurance cover for her nephew, could not afford to pay the medical bill which had now amounted to 52,178 shillings. She was also having health issues and she struggled to get medication for them.
With the aid of information provided to the facility by his aunt upon admission, JOOTRH Medical Social Workers were able to locate Evan’s home. The team liaised with Philip Otieno, the chief of the North Gem location who was more than willing to assist in locating Evan’s home. After a series of liaisons, Evan’s aunty was traced.
Inquiries were done as to why the aunt could not come for her nephew even after the hospital bill was waived and she narrated in a somber tone, the reasons why she decided on neglecting her nephew. She raised certain issues that were summarized by the team as socioeconomic and psychosocial.
She noted that she has raised the young man since his mother passed on and has been catering to his needs with the help of his father, but the problems began months after he finished high school when his condition became worse and his mental state graduated to a worrying stage.
The father, she says, stopped supporting them after Evans’ health began to seriously deteriorate and he could no longer do any kind of work for himself due to the frequent mental breakdowns. Since then, she has been struggling to cater to his needs. Providing food, clothing and Odhiambos’ medical needs was becoming a heavy burden that she could not carry on her own. She had then decided that she will wash her hands off Odhiambo’s case.
The social workers did what they are best at and took the aunty through a counseling session and revived her hopes. At the end of the session, she agreed to take back her nephew and promised that she will never repeat what she had done. Efforts to trace Odhiambos’ father are still underway and the social work team vows to continue on the case until Odhiambo is fully helped and cared for.
In its effort towards providing quality, affordable healthcare services, the government of Kenya acknowledges that a population of its citizens is still unable to afford medical services provided within various public health facilities. It is in this regard that it set up the medical social work departments within public hospitals to cater to this population, in a bid to provide equally accessible medical services.
The utility of medical social work goes beyond just socio-economic. It advocates for holistic patients’ well-being including psychological and emotional welfare. This department acknowledges that family issues among other factors contribute greatly to patients’ health and recovery process.
JOOTRH therefore while geared towards achieving its vision of being a center for quality in healthcare, is more than willing to utilize the department in a bid to ensure that its utility in psycho-social treatment is remotely seen as important for supplementing physiological management of health and illness.