17 February 2017

Kenya: Baby's Life in Jeopardy as Doctors' Strike Continues

A baby is staring at death for lack of urgent medical treatment owing to the doctors' strike.

Three-and-a-half-month-old Maria Wayua has a complex congenital heart problem.

At the newborn unit of the Coast General Provincial Hospital, Mombasa, the only home she knows, Baby Maria cries whenever nurses place her in the incubator.

But no doctor will touch her as they are on strike.

"The child should go to Mater Hospital for further evaluation," Dr Peter Aseyo Sore, a cardiac and thoracic surgeon, said.

"We don't have a cardiac catheterisation laboratory in the whole of Coast region."

The specialist, who is taking part in the doctors' strike, said hospitals require facilities for doctors to treat patients and that is why the doctors are calling for the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement.

Dr Sore has operated on more than 10 heart patients from the region but with the strike, it has been impossible for the baby to get medical attention.

"She could have gone to Kenyatta National Hospital but doctors are on strike," Dr Sore said.

"I am also praying for my heart patients whom I operated on recently before the boycott; their lives are also in danger.

"But I am on strike; they should blame the government."


Baby Maria and her twin brother weighed 2kg each when they were born at the hospital.

Their mother Esther Kyalo died 14 days after they were born.

"She feels motherly love whenever we carry her around," said a nurse who requested anonymity since she is not authorised to speak to the press. "Her health is deteriorating."

Even when doctors boycotted duty, those at the newborn unit would report to work to take care of Baby Maria and other babies born prematurely.

"If we had gone on strike, who would have taken care of these babies? Our case is different; we cannot boycott duty," a doctor said.

Parents with babies at the unit praised the doctors for their selflessness.

"Were it not for these doctors and nurses, my baby would have died," Baby Maria's father, 27-year-old Joshua Kyalo, said.

Mr Kyalo recalled when on October 17, 2016 he left his expectant wife at home and headed to work.

READ: Health CS, PS rivalry to blame for doctors strike, says Atwoli

"She went to Kongowea Market, bought a few items and returned home in Mshomoroni accompanied by a friend," he said.

"She then went to the kitchen to prepare something to eat but when she lit a match there was fire all over the kitchen.

"Neighbours heard a loud explosion and rushed to help."

Neighbours managed to put out the fire and gain entry to the house, where his wife and her friend were fighting for their lives.

They were rushed to the hospital while unconscious.The expectant Ms Kyalo had 50 per cent burns and doctors did an emergency Caesarean Section to rescue the babies. They were born prematurely.

"I have had the worst time ever since doctors boycotted duty," said Mr Kyalo. "But thank God for the nurses.

"The twins were kept in the newborn unit for a while. Weeks after my wife's burial, my son was discharged. However, my baby girl was kept in the incubator after she developed heart problems," Mr Kyalo added.

He visits the hospital every day and buys diapers, milk and medication for his daughter.

A Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) doctor and a few nurses have been taking care of Maria.

The doctors' strike has left many patients at public hospitals suffering due to lack of critical treatment, such as surgeries.

Mr Kyalo, who said he cannot afford the high fees charged by private hospitals, pleaded with well-wishers: "So, the only option is for her to be transferred to a private hospital. She requires Sh1.9 million for the operation. I am a food vendor. Please help me."


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