Two specialist doctors died from coronavirus-related complications yesterday, increasing the alarm over the rate at which the country is losing its top brains.
Prof Anthony Jude Were Omolo, a nephrologist and head of the Renal Unit at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), breathed his last while being treated at Nairobi Hospital in the morning.
Dr Nira Patel, dental surgeon, died around the same time.
Prof Omolo had been in the ICU for 10 days. He had been discharged but was readmitted when he developed breathing difficulties. He was 64.
The professor obtained his Bachelor and Masters of Medicine degrees from the University of Nairobi, before proceeding to Edinburgh and Manchester for a fellowship to study nephrology.
Described by colleagues as a dedicated professional, Prof Omolo was appointed the director of the Kidney transplant programme at Nairobi Hospital.
Mentor and leader
He left and joined Aga Khan before going to Nairobi Womens' Hospital.
Until his death, Prof Omolo was the president of the African Association of Nephrology.
He was also the East African Kidney Institute deputy director.
Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union Secretary-General Chibanzi Mwachonda eulogised Prof Omolo as a teacher, mentor and leader.
"Fourteen days ago, you asked us to pray for you as you got readmitted to the ICU. We wake up to the heartbreaking and devastating mews of your demise. It is shocking," Dr Mwachonda said.
At least 2,352 healthcare workers have tested positive for the virus, with 1,177 being men.
The Ministry of Health says there have been 32 coronavirus-related deaths in the medical fraternity.
The country has lost 12 doctors and 15 nurses while the rest of the deaths are recorded in the other medical cadres.
Explaining the cause of the high number of deaths, Dr Mwachonda said a majority fall in the vulnerable group.
"Most of our specialists are disadvantaged because of their age or underlying health conditions," the KMPDU boss said.
Dr Mwachonda also attributed the high infection rate of coronavirus in the medical fraternity to the rising community transmission.
Severe staff shortage
He added that medical workers do not have enough and standard personal protective equipment (PPE).
"There are at times we attend to patients, only to realise later that they had the virus. With or without PPE, we cannot stop treating and caring for patients. They will not stop seeking treatment at hospitals," he said.
The death of a specialist is a blow to the country as it grapples with a severe staff shortage.
World Health Organisation Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti says inadequate access to PPE or weak infection prevention and control measures increase the risk of health workers getting the virus.
"Risks may also arise because of heavy workload as this results in fatigue, burnout and possibly not fully applying the standard operating procedures," Dr Moeti told journalists recently.
"An infection among health workers is one too many. They are our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children. We must make sure they have the equipment, skills and information they need to keep themselves, their patients and colleagues safe."
Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council chief executive Daniel Yumbya says it takes 15 years of education and training for one to become a specialist.
The timeline, he explains, can seem daunting:Six years in a medical school, a year of internship, a minimum of two years for residency while working and between four to seven years for post-graduate studies.
For one to specialise, he or she needs another two years before getting into full consultancy.
It costs roughly Sh10 million to be a medical specialist. This does not include the equipment, which are very expensive.
"The loss is to the family, region and country as well. How are we going to recover the 15 years?" Mr Yumbya asked.
He said the country should work towards doing everything in its power to stop the deaths of health care workers.
"As a regulator and licenser of doctors, I feel bad because I know the situation we are in as a country. I know what it takes for the government to sponsor one doctor to go specialise in a field. We need to protect them. They are the only assets we have," he said.
Kenya's healthcare is burdened, with one doctor for every 10,000 people.
According to the council, the country has 3,160 registered specialists.
There are 9,096 doctors licensed to care for 47,564,296 Kenyans.
Emergency medicine doctors
Of the licensed specialists, gynecologists are 429, internal medicine and paedetric and child health (366 each), general surgery (353), anaesthetists (166), radiologists (146), orthopedics surgeons (125) and 110 ophthalmologists.
The country has one clinical pathologist, one diabetologist, two emergency medicine doctors, one neurologist, one immunologist and one palliative medicine specialist.
There are two urologists and four oncologists against the new annual cancer incidences of 28,000.
Doctors Professional Associations and Societies of Kenya president Andrew Were said the organisation is concerned because health care Workers are neither being given adequate PPE nor a comprehensive health care insurance package.
"The workers have made sacrifices, putting their lives and those of their families on the line to care for the public," Dr Were said.
"The PPE and a comprehensive medical insurance cover should be the bare minimum requirement to adequately and effectively carry out their duties."
Meanwhile, the country has recorded another high number of daily Covid-19 infections.
The Ministry of Health said 1,211 people - some 1,169 being Kenyans - from 9,304 samples tested positive, taking the caseload to 76,404.
Some 722 new patients are male. The country also recorded 17 deaths, bringing the total to 1,366.
A total of 1,134 coronavirus patients are admitted to hospital.
The cumulative tests since the country recorded its first case on March 23 stand at 833,004.
Nairobi leads in the number of new cases with 410 patients, Mombasa (102), Migori (93), Bungoma (79), Uasin Gishu (55), Kiambu (42), Nakuru (40), Kilifi (39), Nyeri (30), Busia (28), Laikipia (27), Turkana (26), Machakos (25), Meru (25), Kisii (24), Kajiado (21), Trans Nzoia (17) with Kakamega and Nyamira recording 12 each.
Homa Bay has 11, Siaya (nine), Narok (eight), Kitui (seven), Embu (five), with Nandi, Kwale, Muranga, Kericho, Garissa recording four each.
Taita Taveta and Lamu (three each), Elgeyo Marakwet, Tana River and Isiolo recording two cases each. Wajir had one case.