The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) on Monday sent a team of detectives to the Pumwani Maternity Hospital to probe the death of 12 infants, whose bodies were discovered by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.
A team of investigators, led by Buruburu DCIO Jeremiah Ikiao, interrogated staff, management and mothers at the facility to establish allegations that the children died due to negligence and that the management tried to conceal the real number of deaths.
Governor Sonko made an impromptu visit to the hospital at 8am after he received a call from the caretaker of a new mother who alleged that there were no doctors overnight and that the power supply to the nursery was interrupted, leading to the deaths of children in incubators.
"When she called, I decided to park my car at Industrial Area Police Station and took a bodaboda to the hospital myself. When I arrived, I found out that the gynaecologist named James Kamau -- who should have been in charge -- had not arrived, the mothers had not received treatment and the nurses were complaining," the governor told the Nation.
He said when he went to the room that acts as a morgue to confirm the number of bodies, an attendant lied to him that there was only one body, yet there were more than 10 of them hidden in gunny bags. The 12 newborns are suspected to have died over the weekend, due to what the governor termed as 'negligence'.
Probe into death of newborns at Pumwani begins
The hospital does not have a mortuary, and babies who die are usually transferred to the city mortuary or any other morgue preferred by the family.
On a normal day, the bodies are kept in cartons and then put in the designated room until they are collected. Mothers who die are also kept here until the bodies are picked.
Only six out of the 12 bodies were recorded to have died, with the rest remaining undocumented, raising the governor's suspicion over the deaths.
"I had my intelligence that several children had died and so I asked them to open the bags in the morgue and I discovered the 12 bodies of small children,
"I want to categorically state that human life must be respected no matter the case. Stern action will be taken against anyone found to be sabotaging the good services offered to our mothers and sisters who come to deliver in this facility," Mr Sonko said.
Following the incident, the governor suspended the hospital's medical superintendent Dr Catherine Mutinda, administrator Zaddock Angahya and Mr James Kamau, the gynaecologist who was supposed to be on duty.
Mr Sonko constituted a caretaker board to be chaired by Ms Ann Waceke to oversee the management and urgent reforms that will restore quality healthcare services at the facility.
He also appointed Mr Simon Mueke as the new medical superintendent.
Governor Sonko reported the matter to Pangani Police Station, saying that the negligence and concealing of death were criminal acts and those responsible should be arrested and charged.
He then went ahead to deploy doctors from Mbagathi Hospital to temporarily provide health services to the mothers at the Pumwani Hospital.
The governor promised to hire 80 nurses for county hospitals this month to fill the void left by nurses who have exited public service.
At the hospital, mothers said they had not experienced any form of disturbance at night, and some were not even aware of the governor's visit.
"I have been at the nursery since Saturday and I only know of two children who died there. There was a blackout on Sunday evening, but the generator was put on immediately. I am not aware of the deaths of such a high number of children," said Ms Caro Mukami, a mother.
Although she said nurses at the facility's nursery and wards are harsh to mothers, she said no day had passed without her receiving treatment.
A nurse told the Nation that over 100 babies are born everyday at the facility, with almost an equal number of mothers also leaving the facility daily.
"Out of that number, some three or four may die. Some die at birth while some at the incubator. Some of them are stillbirths. The children Sonko is talking about were those that died since Friday. This is not an alarming number here," the nurse said.
Several leaders and politicians took to social media to air their disappointment about the mismanagement of the hospital, with Senator Johnson Sakaja asking the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to probe claims of child swapping, sale and trafficking at the facility.
"The situation unearthed at Pumwani is saddening, heartbreaking and undeserving to any family. Spoken to DCI to investigate concerned parties on the deaths of the babies as well as allegations of child trafficking and baby swaps," the senator said.