The influence of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, is still felt in former colonies like Kenya in many areas, including healthcare, colonial atrocities aside.
The Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in Nairobi, for example, was originally the native civilian hospital when it opened in 1901. Half a century later, it was renamed King George VI, from named after Queen Elizabeth’s father who died when the 25-year-old was in Kenya on a royal tour in February 1952. She later returned and a plaque at the administration block commemorates her royal visit in 1959.
KNH was later renamed Kenyatta National Hospital after Kenya’s independence in 1963 when it became a national referral and teaching hospital.
KNH’s growth was greatly stimulated by the two world wars in 1911 and 1939. From an initial number of 40 beds, war casualties saw their capacity climb to 300 beds during World War II.
In 1957 the infectious diseases wing added 234 more beds while the British military hospital at Kabete became the orthopedic unit. After the construction of the current KNH, the orthopedic unit was transferred to KNH and the Kabete unit was returned to the army. A dental wing came later.
But it was Professor Kirkaldy Willis of Kingston Kent, England, who created the 120 orthopedic beds. He treated spinal tuberculosis and polio deformities before leaving after Kenyan independence.
But health care was largely provided along racial lines.
In The British Medical Administration of East Africa, 1900-1950, Ann Beck notes that “colonial medical services were European-oriented and concerned only with native Kenyans when the epidemic hit”.
Second in line to the mzungus were the Asians, whom the British brought in to build the Uganda Railway from Mombasa in the late 1800s. You see, there were no experienced plumbers, carpenters and blacksmiths there. ‘era.
Third came the Africans who had “indigenous hospitals” and dispensaries with traditional dressings for ulcers and wounds and rural medical providers “who had completed a three-year course”, Beck notes, adding that they treated outpatient cases, referred severe cases, kept records, performed laboratory work, and “distributed stock mixes”.
By the time George VI became KNH it had six theaters which grew to 24, 16 of which specialized in accident and emergency service. Today, it has 50 departments, 22 outpatient clinics and 1,800 beds, including 209 in the private wing.