16 February 2019

Kenya: Alarm as 60 Babies Die at Kiambu Level Five Hospital

Photo: Daily Nation
A preterm baby inside an incubator.

On January 28 at around 9am, Ms Naomi Gathoni from Ikinu village in Githunguri was rushed to the Kiambu Level Five Hospital by her mother in-law, Rose Wangari, after she developed labour pains.

Three days later, Ms Gathoni delivered a bouncing baby girl, weighing 3.8kg through caesarean section.

According to Ms Wangari, the little one was in perfect health at the time of birth. "I personally held her and dressed her since her mother was still in pain arising from the operation which lasted four hours," she told Saturday Nation. The baby was then taken to the hospital's nursery as the mother recuperated in the general ward.

NEGLIGENCE

Things started going terribly wrong four days later. A distressed Ms Gathoni called her mother in-law at about 9pm to tell her that the baby was sneezing terribly.

She informed her the baby girl was also bleeding from the nose and ears, but she was unable to get any doctor to attend to them.

Ms Wangari comforted her, telling her to keep on looking for a doctor. But none showed up.

The baby died three hours later as her mother watched helplessly.

Four other would-be new mothers were also wailing hysterically after their babies were pronounced dead. To add insult to injury, Ms Gathoni is currently back at the hospital for a second operation after the wound from the caesarean procedure started oozing pus.

Ms Gathoni's baby is among 60 newborns who have died at the hospital in the last two months in what families attribute to negligence.

On Friday, the Kiambu County Health executive Mary Kamau, confirmed the deaths but defended the hospital against claims of negligence.

She instead blamed the mothers saying 35 of them were pre-term babies and stood little chance of surviving.

INFECTION

"In the two months of December 2018 and January 2019, Kiambu Hospital conducted 1,703 deliveries. We had a total of 60 neonatal deaths out of which 35 were pre-term babies weighing less than 1.5 kilograms," she noted.

"About 50 per cent of the pre-term cases were referrals from neighbouring private, faith-based and other public facilities. The survival rate for severe pre-term babies is very low worldwide," she argued.

"It is worth noting that Kiambu County has an average neonatal mortality rate of 15 per 1,000 live births compared to the national average of 22 to 1000 live births," she went on.

Her sentiments were echoed by the hospital superintendent Dr Jesse Ngugi who also exonerated his team from blame.

"We usually request for consent because we want the relatives to know that there are some risks ... wound infection is a known risk after a caesarean section, and I cannot say it is as a result of any technicality used in the procedure," Dr Ngugi said, specifically referring to Ms Gathoni's situation.

INCUBATOR

Another bereaved parent is Mr Joseph Muriuki, a resident of Ruaraka, Nairobi, who took his wife to the facility following a referral from a private hospital about three weeks ago.

According to Mr Muriuki doctors told him that his wife, who was 35 weeks pregnant, required a CT scan to establish the condition of the foetus, and had to be admitted awaiting the operation.

Mr Muriuki said his wife remained at the facility for over a week without the CT scan being done, only for her to be told that the machine had broken down.

The couple was asked to pay Sh3,000 so that they could have the scan conducted at a private clinic near the hospital.

Last Sunday, two days after the CT scan, Mr Muriuki said his wife developed labour pains and delivered a baby boy weighing 2.7 kilograms. The baby was placed in the incubator. "On Monday, I was called at the hospital and old the baby was dead yet no clear reasons were given," he said.

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