Kenya: Mombasa ICU Facilities Full as Coronavirus Cases Surge

Nafisa Hussein cannot believe she is still alive, four days after her family made frantic calls to hospitals in Mombasa searching for a bed in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

She had developed breathing problems at home on Friday. She was rushed to a private hospital in Nyali where a doctor told her she was suffering from a viral infection and had a urinary tract infection.

But she sought a second opinion at Mombasa Hospital, where it was confirmed she had Covid-19.

Some private hospitals refused to admit her with her health insurance cover. Her family could not get an ICU bed in Mombasa, with some hospitals demanding a down payment of Sh300,000.

"I had to be rushed to Diani in Kwale in an ambulance. I was almost dying, I was out of air," Ms Hussein said.

Although not out of the woods yet, she said the disease can exhaust a family's finances.

"I saw death. I was so worried but I'm taking a day at a time. At first I thought it was pneumonia only for my fears to be confirmed," she said.

She urged Kenyans to strictly adhere to the Ministry of Health protocols to keep the disease at bay, especially wearing a face mask.

Dr Ahmed Kalebi, a specialist in general and anatomical pathology, and laboratory medicine, claimed there was a surge in coronavirus cases in Mombasa, with all ICU beds at Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital and private hospitals full.

"It appears that the Ministry of Health is woefully under-reporting actual data. I'm reliably informed by senior doctors in Mombasa that there's a terrible surge in Mombasa where all ICU beds are full. While Covid-19 wards are overwhelmed, that is not reflected in Ministry of Health statistics," he said.

Part of the problem, he said, was that many cases are being diagnosed in hospitals and clinics using antigen tests/CT-scans instead of PCR (polymerase chain reaction, a test performed to detect genetic material from coronavirus).

"Because the Ministry of Health simply doesn't collate data on non-PCR tests from these medical facilities, the data does not represent a true picture," he said, urging counties and the national government to find ways of ensuring all positive antigen tests and CT-scans are reported to the centralised database.

PCR tests have their drawbacks compared with antigen tests, Dr Kalebi said, including cost and turnaround time.

But the Mombasa County government rejected the claims, describing them as outrageous.

"When coronavirus cases were high, we had 150 beds at Coast General and 300 at the Technical University of Mombasa," said Health Chief Officer Dr Khadija Shikely.

"Currently we have 40 beds set aside for coronavirus patients at Coast General. At the moment we have 38 patients."

On Tuesday, the county will open a Covid-19 facility at Tudor Sub-County Hospital to take care of mild and moderate cases.

"Our ICU is not full. We are wondering why someone would speak about Mombasa while in Nairobi instead of coming to Mombasa, that's reckless," Dr Shikely said.

"He should have spoken with authorities in Mombasa to establish the truth before giving outrageous comments to the media. There's no crisis."

Mombasa County has less than 50 ICU beds.

At Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa, Dr Hemed Twahir, the medical director, said his Covid-19 ICU facility was full with Covid-19 patients.

"We have two ICUs, one for normal patients with a four-bed capacity and we only had two patients. The Covid-19 ICU capacity is 11 and we have 11 patients," he said.

On July 11, the Ministry of Health reported, Mombasa had only five cases.

"We have been recording few cases, we are flattening the curve," Gilbert Kitiyo, the county Covid-19 response committee co-chairman, told the Nation in an interview.

watieno@ke.nationmedia.com

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