Agony for patients as Covid stretches Kenya’s healthcare system

Kenya is staring at a health crisis if the soaring Covid-19 cases continue on an upward trend.

The number of hospitalizations has hit a new high with intensive care units in most hospitals running out of capacity.

With the country recording a record high of 22 per cent positivity rate, health facilities in the capital Nairobi are quickly running out of bed space amid a spike in daily Covid-19 cases.

A spot check by KBC digital shows a grim outlook with top private facilities filled up and no spaces available in the ICU.

A patient who needed critical care on Monday evening was kept waiting at a top satellite clinic in Embakasi as the nurses in charge frantically tried to reach out to several hospitals to admit her.

The clinic’s parent health facility, unfortunately, did not have space in the ICU forcing the nurses to look elsewhere to save the life of the female patient who required supplemental oxygen.

With her life hanging on a thread and agonizing hours of waiting, help finally came through when one of the top health facilities managed to make room for her in the ICU.

This is a pointer to how grave the situation is on the ground as patients are turned away.

Most hospitals overflowing with critical patients in the ICU and HDU including Covid wards and are no longer admitting.

In Machakos, the situation is the same. Machakos Level 5 hospital’s 15 ICU beds and additional 12 HDU beds are packed with severe Covid patients.

Machakos governor Alfred Mutua sent a scary message on Twitter warning that things are bad and people should not lower their guard.

“People are waiting for others to die to get a bed” he said.

As of yesterday (Monday) 120 patients were in ICUs, 31 of whom were on ventilatory support and 86 on supplemental oxygen.

This is double the number recorded at such a time in January when only 27 people were in intensive care, out of whom 16 were on ventilatory support.

Another 3,003 infected people are on home-based and isolation care compared to 1, 553 two months ago

“Looking at these statistics, we can very easily get discouraged. However, I want to assure Kenyans that we are working on ensuring that we have adequate capacity of ICU and even High Dependency Units both at our National as well as County referral hospitals” said Health CS Mutahi Kagwe who insists the situation is still under control.

“Our health facilities are currently overstretched but this does not mean they have been overrun. We have witnessed a huge number of hospitalizations lately. The number of those being admitted at our Intensive Care Units has especially shot up” said Kagwe.

Kagwe warns that the latest third wave which has in the past week claimed top media personalities and county officials is lethal.

“But even as we continue to battle this third wave of which I cautioned you that it would come with a vengeance, the only way to curtail the spread is to ensure we strictly adhere to the containment measures that we have advised. This includes washing of hands with soap and water, wearing of face masks at all times in public places, maintaining of social and physical distance and avoiding all forms of gatherings be they social or political” he appealed.

Media personality Lorna Irungu, Nakuru County Health Chief Officer Samuel King’ori and Reverend Matthew Wambua of Donholm deliverance church lost the fight against the disease on Monday.

Kagwe assured that the fight against the virus is not lost even as he called for concerted efforts to defeat the invisible enemy.

“We must not forget that we remain in a pandemic and it is important that the entire country pulls in the same direction. Since the pandemic struck our country, we have had very good interaction and cooperation from the religious sector as well as the private sector. This cooperation is expected even as we continue with our vaccination exercise”.

County Governments have been challenged to step up their efforts in ensuring that their counties are well prepared to deal with emerging issues in their respective counties.

Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital (KUTRH) 32 ICU beds are full with Covid patients.

Hospital Board Chair Prof Olive Mugenda said they will set up 30 more beds in the next three days.


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