Patients at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) using National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cards to access health services and clear hospital bills have been left stranded following a system outage since Monday.
The NHIF system at the facility has been down and the most affected patients are the cancer patients. These patients cannot attend chemotherapy which can only be accessed on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
It has not been made clear what caused the outage but Mr Nicodemus Odongo, the acting Chief Executive Officer of NHIF, says the system is up and running.
"NHIF system is alive and working very well everywhere, including at KNH," said Odongo.
He went on to explain that NHIF has its own system that has to be integrated with the hospital's system to monitor the transaction and that the system failure could be from the hospital's side.
A spot check by the Nation in Hospitals within the city has confirmed the NHIF system are working.
Kenyatta National Hospital acting CEO Evanson Kamuri on his side said the delay at the NHIF office has been caused by the pre-authorization of the documents.
"The NHIF has a problem, they use to pre-authorize the payment but now they have changed the centre of authorization which is causing the delay," Kamuri said.
Families and patients are now being forced to pay cash to access urgent services.
"This week we have had to pay for the two session because the system have been down since Monday," said one woman with a patient at the hospital.
"They keep telling us to check after every two hours but the situation has remained the same since Monday. It's very unfortunate this is happening at the referral hospital," she added.
Patients who are required to go for dialysis are also affected as they have to wait for NHIF approval.
Missing dialysis treatment, which removes toxins that build up in the blood of people who suffer from kidney failure, leaves them feeling dizzy and nauseous.
Like any chronic kidney patient, they could die if they go too long without treatment.
When the Nation visited the NHIF offices at the hospital, we found long queues of patients and families looking frustrated.
According to a patient who talked to the Nation team, between 300-700 people have been coming to the hospital since Monday without any help.
Some of the patients have been discharged but the hospital has detained them as they await for the approval of their bills.
"We were discharged on Monday but we cannot leave the hospital because we are paying our bills using NHIF card and the system," said one woman.
The woman is frustrated as she has been told she will have to pay for the extra day she has been at the hospital since the discharge.
"I have been told by an admin at the NHIF office, instead of complaining about the system I should start looking for money to pay for the extra days," she added.
A principal NHIF card holder, who went to pick his two children has been visiting the facility since Monday with no help. His children were discharged on Monday but are still at the hospital.
"I have an NHIF card but the system has been down since Monday. It's very disappointing to contribute to NHIF every month yet when you need to use the service you cannot. The cashier has suggested that I pay cash but I will just have to wait because I cannot be contributing then use my money again to access services," the father of two said.
The hospital has been having bed capacity issues and so most of the discharged patients are forced to sleep on the floor to give space to the incoming patients.