With the number of COVID-19 survivors rising globally, so does the number of sufferers of subsequent health issues that in many cases also threaten their livelihoods.
One of them is 44-year-old Kenyan civil servant Godfrey Maithya, who has developed heart conditions following his COVID-19 infection and is facing the fact that his insurance only pays a quarter of his medical bills.
No longer fighting for his life, but battling for his livelihood, his local church decided to step in to try and help pay the rest of his bills, amounting to approximately 3.9 million Kenya shillings (about 36,000 US dollars), by starting a fundraiser.
Members of the church have even put up land title deeds as collateral to help raise the money needed.
Like many Kenyans who have survived COVID-19, suffered complications, and ended up with high medical bills, Maithya’s family savings have been wiped out by the pandemic. His home and land are on the verge of being auctioned off if he fails to foot the hospital bill.
Maithya went to a private hospital, the Karen Hospital in the leafy suburbs of Nairobi. The hospital is known for being one of the better hospitals but like many private hospitals, medical care in Kenya is unaffordable to most people.
Maithya spent almost two months in the hospital, with two weeks in the high dependency unit after he suffered heart failure, a condition which he was told was triggered by COVID-19.
Another worried man is Maithya’s pastor, Reverend Robert Musili Kaviti. As a church leader, he organized several fund drives. “But my question is, if I get more than 10 patients in the congregants with the same amount, what shall the church do?” he said.
Reverend Kaviti is dealing with another problem. The stigma of COVID-19. Once a member of his church is diagnosed with the virus, they are not allowed to congregate with the rest.
Maithya and his family know the stigma of COVID-19 all too well. Even after being declared COVID-19 free, the fundraising at the church had to be done without him being there otherwise many churchgoers would have boycotted it.
Reverend Kaviti said he hoped there could be a global fund or insurance that could subsidize COVID-19 patients.
Calls to the Karen Hospital for comment were declined. The finance department director told an Associated Press reporter over the phone that they do not speak to the media about their patient’s medical bills.