A recent report by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu paints a concerning picture of Kenyatta National Hospital's (KNH) financial health.

The audit reveals a staggering Sh13 billion in outstanding liabilities by June 2023, nearly double the previous year's figure.

This alarming debt burden threatens the smooth operation of Kenya's largest public healthcare facility.

Several factors contribute to KNH's financial woes starting from a significant chunk, Sh562 million, stemming from unpaid medical bills by patients who opted to leave without settling their accounts.

The audit raises a red flag with the presence of "ghost patients" – 678 individual cases totalling Sh74 million lack any verification details like patient numbers or invoices.

"Verification of schedules revealed six hundred and seventy-eight (678) patients with total unsecured debt amount of Sh74,556,613 did not have details of in-patient number, invoice number, folio number, and guarantor," Gathungu stated in her report.

Lingering for over a year, these outstanding debts cast doubt on their collectability.

The financial strain extends beyond patient bills. KNH owes suppliers a staggering Sh2.9 billion, reflecting an 83 per cent increase from the past year.

Adding to the pressure is uncollected rent from staff quarters, amounting to Sh36 million.

Contract losses of Sh379 million were incurred while treating patients covered by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) beyond their reimbursable limits.

Despite collecting Sh20 billion in revenue, the hospital fell short of its Sh21 billion budgetary target.

Furthermore, expenditure soared to Sh26.6 billion, exceeding planned spending by 12 per cent.

This unsustainable trend highlights the precarious financial situation KNH finds itself in.

With over 1.7 million Kenyans relying on KNH's services annually, a financial crisis leading to service disruptions could have devastating consequences.

The Auditor General's report serves as a crucial wake-up call and immediate action is needed to address the root causes of the debt burden.

This may involve stricter patient billing procedures, enhanced debt collection efforts, and potentially revising contracts with suppliers and NHIF to ensure better financial control.

Without swift intervention, KNH's ability to provide essential healthcare services to millions could be jeopardized.