Kenya: Doctor in Eye of Sarit Centre Ejection Storm

Dr Mukesh Joshi, the director of Laser Eye Centre at Sarit Centre in Westlands, Nairobi, is a worried man.

On Friday, the mall's management put up a notice advising his clients that his clinic would no longer be accessible as his lease has expired.

"To all visitors and clients of Laser Eye Centre Limited... Take notice that the lease for the premises shall expire on July 31, 2020 and the landlord shall not be renewing the same. Consequently, the landlord shall be hoarding (sic) the premises on August 1, 2020 and no one shall be allowed access," said the unsigned notice.

The cause of the dispute is a fire that razed a section of the mall in May 2018, which necessitated repairs. Dr Joshi asked the renovators not to work during his working hours as it was discomfiting his patients.

The Laser Eye Centre management stated they were unable to move their specialised equipment as engineers qualified to do so were unable to come to the country due to Covid-19.

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

His lawyer Philip Murgor termed the eviction tragic, especially now when businesses are suffering the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Imagine Dr Joshi operating (on) your eye under local anaesthesia, meaning you're wide awake, and he's telling you don't move, and then drilling starts upstairs and banging starts on the wall... He pleaded with them to be reasonable. .. But they said they would not stop, so Dr Joshi went to court. They were angry that he dared challenge them and they decided not to renew his lease," Mr Murgor told reporters at the clinic.

On July 30, a day before the expiry of the lease, the Environment and Land Court ruled in favour of the landlord.

On May 6, Sarit Centre chief operations officer Nitin Shah wrote to Laser Eye Centre stating that they would be allowed a one-year non-renewal notice to find another premises on condition they meet particular stipulations.

Among these conditions was joint control access to the premises as well as payment of costs associated with the one-year licence.

The clinic, however, requested that the landlord to allow the status quo until the engineers from Italy are able to come to the country to help him move.

Dr Joshi is now banking on the Court of Appeal to allow their extension application, which would afford them more time to move the medical equipment.

SPECIALISED ENGINEERS

"Until the specialised engineers can travel to Kenya to dismantle and relocate its specialised equipment, we are not in a position to move. In addition, President Uhuru Kenyatta has publicly requested landlords to be particularly considerate to tenants during these challenging times, a consideration that Justice Okong'o dismissed," he said.

Dr Joshi expressed concern that although international travel has been permitted, moving the medical equipment might take a while longer as travellers from Italy, India and South Africa are not in Kenya's safe countries list.

In addition, recommendations from both the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) encouraged the clinic to hold off any movement until it is logically feasible.

"This clinic has treated thousands of patients suffering from various eye conditions. Right now, there are tens of patients receiving post-surgery treatment, all of whom will be severely affected by the closure of the clinic. This matter is of great public concern," he noted.

The director is now calling on the government to intervene, noting that the act is a terrible shame and reflects badly on privileged sections of the society.

"I appeal to the government to bring sanity to this absurd state of affairs. We are providing specialised services at a very difficult time; it is therefore the needy patients who will suffer from the selfish and inconsiderate actions by the Sarit Centre management," he said.

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