Kenya: Hospitals Charge Hefty Fees for ICU Beds Amid Biting Shortage

(file photo).

Private hospitals are demanding deposits of up to Sh600,000 before admitting Covid-19 patients amid a scramble by the critically ill for limited Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds.

Inquiries by Nation in various top private and public hospitals exposed the frustrations families are undergoing to have their sick relatives admitted as the third wave of the deadly contagion sweeps across the country.

Following a call to one city hospital to find out how much it would cost to be admitted in the ICU and if there were any available beds, staff transferred us to various departments but at one point we overheard response that there were only two beds available.

At Nairobi Hospital, which has a 35-bed facility, a nurse said a deposit of Sh600, 000 was needed before admission to the Covid-19 ICU or the hospital's main ICU.

At Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), one would have to part with Sh200, 000 to access the ICU facility.

At Mater Hospital, a Sh600, 000 deposit is needed to admit a Covid-19 patient to the ICU of. For other patients, the amount for high dependence unit and ICU is Sh150, 000 and Sh200, 000, respectively. But the cost of setting up an ICU is also quite high. A standard ICU room costs between Sh7 million and Sh8 million to set up. Before the pandemic struck, the country's health system was already limping. Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe at the height of the first Covid-19 wave had announced that the ministry was planning to set up 1,000-bed ICU facilities.

The ministry at one point suspended surgeries that required hospitalisation in the ICU to free up beds for critically ill Covid-19 patients.

Yesterday, the CS admitted that Nairobi and Machakos counties were getting overwhelmed, with 120 patients in different ICUs.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union acting secretary general Chibanzi Mwachonda said it was a shame that ,a year later, the country was still struggling to expand its healthcare capacity.

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