Dr Mercy Mwangangi came to the limelight during her Covid 19 briefings.
Her eloquence, knowledge of the topic, and beauty captured many souls.
Despite many having despised the CAS positions as warm corners for election losers, hers was different.
People felt she deserved it, or even more.
And in a rare revelation, the CAS has come out to detail her treacherous journey to this high table.
In her speech during the Nairobi Hospital CEO’s round table last month, Dr Mwangangi left many tongue- tied in a narration that detailed how her risky bravery amid biases earned her the seat.
Missing salary for 18 months, sneaking out of the country to attend an international health forum in the US, facing frustrations by both her patients and bosses, as well as disrupting the Minister’s presentation in the presence of the President were just some of the huddles she had to deal with.
Hers started in 2009 when she left medical school and was one of the nine interns posted to Machakos Level Five Hospital.
Level Five Hospital was a good place to gain the much needed experience.
Being young, and a lady, this was her first interaction with biases, as old men didn’t believe in her, and always asked her to instead ‘call a doctor to attend to them’.
“I practiced here for three years, and I was posted to the second hottest part of Kenya, Tharaka Nithi Marimanti,” she said.
Here, she says she worked under desperate conditions, including snakes freely interacting with people in offices.
Missing salary for 18 months, sneaking out of the country to attend an international health forum in the US, facing frustrations by both her patients and bosses, as well as disrupting the Minister’s presentation in the presence of the President were just some of the huddles she had to deal withMwangangi
She worked as the District Health Officer.
During her introduction to the District Commissioner, she recalled that she had to sit outside the office for two hours.
At 23, young and working with experienced civil servants, she appeared as some helper.
After graduating with a Masters degree in Health Economics in 2016, she moved to the Ministry of Health.
“I remember I was the only Health Economist as the Ministry at that time,” she said.
No pay for 18 months
And for three months, she tried to seek audience with the then Health PS to explain how her knowledge and skills would contribute to the sector.
She was repeatedly dismissed.
For 18 months, she had no pay, idling around the corridors of Afya House.
But she later became the youngest divisional head, Health Financing, at the age of 27.
Worked to put together the journey of UHC.
Political game of throne in Afya House saw her hounded out of the position, as she had no godfather.
I started shaking my head and telling myself ‘don’t let me speak, you cannot speak when the Minister is there’, but this is the President telling you to say somethingMwangangi
Once, she sneaked out of work to attend a global forum by World Bank on health financing in the Washington DC.
While making a presentation on resource setting, she bumped on Health CS Cecilly Kariuki.
She had not sought clearance from her office to travel out of the country as was provided by the public service regulations.
“After the presentation, it was my task to find her and pass my apologies,” she said.
This however marked the beginning of her climbing to the Chief Administrative Secretary position.
Journey to CAS
The CS was impressed by her presentation, and co-opted her in her health financing strategy journey.
“I must commend her courage to take a chance to trust in a little unknown individual in the ministry,” she added.
They fashioned the UHC, and once had their Sh350 billion proposal for the project was shot down by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
One day, while moving slides for the CS during a presentation before the President on UHC, something nasty happened.
One slide had been copy pasted from previous slides and it didn’t make sense.
The President was irritated and asked her to jump in.
“I started shaking my head and telling myself ‘don’t let me speak, you cannot speak when the Minister is there’, but this is the President telling you to say something,” said Mwangangi.
She added: “And I did, and that is the story of how I ended up being where I am now as CAS.”