19 February 2019

Kenya: Infants Sharing Incubators at Kiambu Hospital

Up to three infants share an incubator at the Kiambu Level Five Hospital. The situation at the neonatal intensive care unit is a reflection of the congestion at the health facility. Last week, County Health Executive Mary Kamau confirmed that 60 infants had died at the hospital in two months.

The hospital, which has also been grappling with poor infrastructure and equipment in other units, has eight incubators at the intensive-care nursery in the newborn unit, with an average of 16 pre-term babies at a time.

ONVERGE OF DEATH

In the nursery, where premature babies who are out of danger are taken to gain weight, two to three infants share an incubator, which doctors and the hospital's administrators say is not advisable.

Dr Grace Aketch, head of the paediatric unit, says the nursery has a capacity for 40 babies but handles about 66 pre-term babies at any given time.

It means nurses must put two or three babies in one cot, depending on their birth weight.

"In the pre-term unit there are eight incubators," Dr Aketch said. "We receive babies that are 28 weeks old, with an average weight of a kilogramme. Such cases are complicated. We do not have a general intensive care unit. Despite the problems, we do all we can to ensure that they gain at least a kilogramme."

This emerged even as Governor Ferdinand Waititu defended the hospital against claims of negligence, saying in most cases babies are referred to the top county hospital when they are on the verge of death.

"Many pre-term babies are referred to the facility from other hospitals and even homes while others are cases of abortion. Some are brought here on motorcycles and by they time they arrive, they have already developed complications and there is little our doctors can do," Mr Waititu said.

Reacting to reports that 60 babies died at the hospital between December 2018 and January 2019, Ms Kamau issued a press release pointing out that 35 were pre-term babies weighing less than 1.5 kilogrammes.

REFERRALS

The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) has demanded an explanation from the hospital's Medical Superintendent, Dr Jesse Ngugi, on the reported deaths.

Ms Judy Mukiira, the nursing officer in charge of the newborn unit, said their facilities were overstretched since they receive referrals from other public and private facilities in Kiambu and Nairobi.

The Director for Health Services, Dr David Ndegwa, said, "We are not saying there is any justification for any child to die when they are delivered here, but because of the large number and condition of some of the mothers, we find that we are getting this problem (infant deaths)," Dr Ndegwa said.

But Woman Rep Gathoni Wa Muchomba, who toured the facility alongside her Murang'a counterpart and National Assembly Health Committee chair Sabina Chege yesterday, said the county must expand it.

Governor Waititu said the county had reached out to Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki for help from the State to expand the facility, but added that the long-term solution lay in building a new wing at the hospital to ease the congestion.

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