Kenya: COVID-19 - Hospitals at 'Tipping Point' As Cases Increase

Boda boda operators in Malaba. The border town in Busia County has recorded many coronavirus cases in the recent past.

The fight against Covid-19 is threatening to overwhelm healthcare resources in the country as the coronavirus pandemic burrows deeper nationwide.

The severity of the disease is straining resources, causing burnout among health workers, some of whom have also been infected. So far, more than 450 frontline workers have tested positive while four have died.

A nationwide assessment of how Covid-19 has impacted the healthcare system shows that most county hospitals are stretched to the limit.

On Wednesday, the Council of Governors (CoG) chairman, Mr Wycliffe Oparanya, painted a gory picture of the country's health sector and called for support from the national government.

From withdrawal of ambulance services due to lack of funding to lack of testing kits, the Kakamega County boss called for the speedy operationalisation of the insurance package for frontline health workers that was recommended by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

ISOLATION UNIT

The Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) Isolation Unit in Mbagathi is overwhelmed and will no longer take referrals.

In a memo to all directors and heads of departments, the senior director of clinical services at KNH, Dr Irene Inwani, said following the decision the Mbagathi isolation unit will only admit confirmed cases, the unit will not handle 'suspected cases' or screen the public.

"The unit will not receive referrals from the counties as directed by the ministry of Health on July 8, 2020, unless under special circumstances," she said.

A burdened health care system is taking a toll on its workers.

At the Lamu County King Fahad Referral Hospital, workers have downed their tools, citing poor working conditions that are exposing them to Covid-19. Six of them have contracted the virus.

In Kisumu County, where 150 health workers are handling coronavirus patients at the Jaramogi Odinga Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital, nurses have raised concerns over the quality of PPEs.

A nurse at Rabuor Sub-County Hospital said they are provided with only two face masks for a week. The Kenya Nurses Union of Nurses (KNUN) officials in Kisumu recently presented some samples of face masks for quality checks at Kebs.

TESTING

The Nation also took some samples from the nurses to Kebs for testing.

"We have taken them to our lab in Nairobi. We will have feedback by next week," said Kebs Regional Manager Andrew Maiyo.

The situation is just as dire at Bondo Sub-county hospital with a 14-bed capacity isolation ward.

Busia, which has recorded over 500 cases, hired 650 nurses.Kenya National Union of Nurses Busia branch chairman Isaiah Omondi said while the number is now sufficient to handle the number of cases reported, the frontline workers were risking their lives without proper gear and training.

"Even though the situation is unpredictable, the major challenge in our health facilities is lack of protective equipment," said Mr Omondi.

In Samburu, isolation centres are at the Maralal Youth Polytechnic, Baragoi Sub-county, Samburu County Referral, Archers Sub-county and Laikipia University. The county needs 251 isolation beds.

Similarly, private hospitals are also facing the same challenge as some such as the MP Shah have already reported that their Covid-19 wards are full.

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