Nairobi — Security guards watched television in the vacant waiting rooms of Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital and nurses in training ate bananas outside the normally busy Pumwani Maternity Hospital as Kenyatta National Hospital announced eight intra-uterine baby deaths in the last week.
And as KNH Chief Executive Officer Simeon Monda released the figures, he warned that the situation could get even more dire should the public health workers' strike fail to come to an expedient end.
"Since the strike started, we have received eight mothers who have arrived at KNH when their babies have already died in the womb. An unfortunate loss of life that could have been averted had they not been turned away from the public health facilities that were closest to them," he lamented.
As Monda released the figures the referral hospital's labour ward was catering to 112 women as opposed to the 30 it generally catered to per day before the public health workers' strike began.
"There are never any queues in the labour ward because how can you wait when it's time for the baby to come out, but just look at this," KNH Communication Manager Simon Ithae said as he pointed to about a dozen women in labour seated on benches along the corridors of the labour ward.
Ninety-four others who were in the early stages of labour, suffering from complications or just from labour were crammed in the 40-bed maternity wing; two to three on a bed or on a mattress on the floor with their new borns in hand.
"We can't just turn them away and they have to be kept for observation for a minimum of 24 hours," the Senior Nursing officer-in-charge of the labour ward Grace Wang'ombe explained.
Despite having to share a bed, Carolyn Nthenya was just grateful to have safely delivered her baby despite having been turned away from Pumwani.
"Those women in Pumwani are not human. I got there at about 1pm, I even broke my water there and despite my family's pleas they still sent me away," she said, "God bless Kenyatta. There even serve us chicken here."
Pauline Wanjiru's story wasn't much different, "I had given birth at a clinic near my home on Tuesday last week but the bleeding didn't stop and when I went to Pumwani, bleeding, they still turned me away."
Seven days later and Wanjiru was stranded at the Kenyatta National Hospital due to a blood shortage. "I need three pints but they don't have it so I have to wait," she said as she sat up in bed next to another mother and her child.
The blood shortage was occasioned by the large number of patients who have thronged the Kenyatta National Hospital after being turned away from the surrounding public health facilities.
"We are seeing 1,000 more patients than we normally do and despite recalling even those who are on leave we are still struggling. There isn't enough blood either and we feel we are not meeting the required medical standards," Monda admitted.