Kenya: Mombasa Healthcare Workers Reveal Anguish Battling Covid-19

A spike in Covid-19 cases in Mombasa County has struck fear in healthcare workers, some of whom have contracted the disease.

Three workers' unions have claimed some of their members are being treated for the respiratory disease but have inadequate medical insurance.

The workers are represented by the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers, Kenya National Union of Nurses and Kenya National Union of Laboratory Officers

"We have issues with our insurance cover. Healthcare workers are on their own. We cannot access healthcare services in any hospital because our insurance cover is not providing such service due to unremitted funds," said Frankline Makanga, a clinical officer.

"Governor Hassan Joho, your finance department is sabotaging you by not paying deductions."

Another health worker said he was being treated for the coronavirus at Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital (CGTRH) and that isolation beds were full with 45 patients.

"At the Covid-19 ICU, the eight beds are full. In the normal ICU, the 12 beds are also full. The situation is dire," said the worker, who requested anonymity.

On July 5, Doreen Kaptum, 28, a clinical officer at a private hospital who was pregnant, was rushed to CGTRH.

She succumbed to Covid-19 on July 10, a few days after giving birth by emergency caesarian section at CGTRH.

But health workers claimed their colleague died because of an oxygen crisis at the largest hospital in the Coast region serving six counties.

"The C-section was delayed and pushed to July 7 due to lack of ICU beds," said Mr Makanga, the Mombasa branch Kenya Union of Clinical Officers secretary-general.

"Our colleague's Covid-19 status was complicated having been diagnosed late, but matters were aggravated at the ICU due to the current oxygen crisis at CGTRH. The saturations are currently flowing less than the recommended 500 litres per minute."

The union has advised its members who are frontline workers to take extra precautions.

"We are mourning. A majority of our colleagues have not been vaccinated and they are contracting the virus at their workplaces. We must be vaccinated, the disease is spiking and people have let their guards down," he said.

The disease is being misdiagnosed as dengue fever in most hospitals, he said. Medics said Mombasa had recorded a spike in dengue fever cases.

Mr Makanga advised private hospitals to take the necessary precautions and protect their workers by ensuring they have the right personal protective equipment.

He also said vulnerable employees like pregnant women, the aged and those with comorbidities be exempted from working in risky environments.

The clinical officers' union now wants the Ministry of Health to compensate families of frontline workers who died from Covid-19 contracted in the line of duty.

Acting County Secretary Joab Tumbo said he will respond to claims that health workers lack adequate insurance because the county had not remitted deductions for the cover.

At least 60 coronavirus patients were being treated at various hospitals in the county as of Wednesday, July 14. Seven were on supplementary oxygen in the ICU and 23 on supplemental oxygen in general wards.

ICUs in private hospitals are also full with patients as some facilities demand Sh300,000 upfront before admission.

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

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

But Health Chief Officer Pauline Oginga rejected reports of a surge in Covid-19 infections.

"There's no spike. Cases are fluctuating because of testing. When we lack reagents we take our samples to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in Kilifi which is also relied on by other counties in the Coast," she said.

She said people had let their guard down by disregarding Ministry of Health protocols.

"Covid-19 is real. We urge residents to be careful. We don't want to impose any containment measures like in western counties, but everyone must wear their face masks, maintain social distance, wash our hands or use sanitisers," she advised.

Mombasa County had recorded 12,632 confirmed cases as of July 10.

"One death has been reported over the last 24 hrs. The total number of deaths reported since the beginning of the outbreak is 251 cases, (and the) case fatality rate is 2.0 percent," said a statement from the county.

Of the 12,632 confirmed cases, only 430 presented with symptoms.

The most common symptoms among symptomatic patients are coughs, fevers, and difficulty in breathing, the county Health department says.

Mvita sub-county has the highest infection rate, at 3,046 people per 100,000.

"Of the 12,632 confirmed cases, a total of 12,414 are local transmissions. Some 308 contacts are under follow-up. In the last 24 hours, 219 samples were tested across various laboratories, of which 34 samples turned positive for Covid-19," officials said.

The monthly positivity rate for July was 13.2 percent as of July 10, slightly higher than the previous month.

Some 161,757 cumulative tests have been conducted.

Eighteen patients have recovered and were discharged, bringing the number of recoveries and discharges to 10,738.

Some 11,578 have received their second Covid-19 vaccination dose, with health care workers leading (2,853), followed by security personnel (2,658), teachers (1,697), individuals above 58 (4,549) and others (5,830).

Since March 22, 2020 when the first case was confirmed in Mombasa, 12,632 cases have been confirmed, with 251 deaths.

Of the 12,632 cases, 12,414, (99.7 percent) were local transmissions and 278 (2.3 percent) were imported cases, the report said. More males than females have been affected by the pandemic.

Infected males make up 68 percent while women are at 32 percent.

The county cited some challenges in the fight against the pandemic.

"Many cases are retested but unfortunately reported as new cases. If thorough data cleaning is done these cases may account for up to 10 percent to 15 percent of the whole data," the county government said.

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