Kenya: Lamu on the Radar Over Surge in Virus Cases as Hospitals Are Overstretched

A Covid-19 vaccine dose (file photo).

The deadly delta variant of Covid-19 is wreaking havoc in Lamu as healthcare workers struggle to handle the spike in cases in poorly equipped public hospitals.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe warned on Friday that the archipelago could be placed under lockdown over a surge that has overwhelmed medical practitioners.

Covid-19 patients are daily being admitted in various health centres with the King Fahad County Referral Hospital almost stretched to the limit.

The management had to convert the paediatric wing into a Covid-19 isolation ward last week to accommodate more patients.

The ward is poorly equipped with the only tangible items being the beds, cupboards, face masks and a few oxygen cylinders.

Patients with severe Covid-19 are referred to Mombasa and other counties for treatment as Lamu does not have a single Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

"We are worried as medics. The new delta variant is here and we've been receiving patients almost daily. We only have one isolation centre and it's almost full. The ward is supposed to be run by at least 16 people, but we're only four," said a healthcare worker.

"Oxygen availability is generally low. The centre can only receive patients but can't treat them as it lacks basic facilities. We're forced to refer most patients to Mombasa for treatment."

Mr Famau Omar, a resident who recently lost his uncle to Covid-19, said if the situation continued, the region would lose more people to the disease due to poor infrastructure.

"My uncle died because of poor services in Lamu. How can you handle a Covid-19 patient the way it happened to my uncle? No basic resuscitation equipment at the King Fahad isolation ward, no ICU in the whole of Lamu. We need urgent intervention," said Mr Omar.

Proper infrastructure

Lamu Justice Network (LJN) organisation official Yunus Issakia accused the county government of laxity since the pandemic hit the region last year. He warned that the delta variant might claim many lives unless proper infrastructure is put in place.

"Many people will die because we have nothing to depend on here. The alleged isolation centres don't have a thing apart from a table, a chair and personal protective equipment. The hospitals are also incapacitated," said Mr Issakia.

The county government had promised to construct a 186-bed isolation centre and a five-bed ICU for Covid-19 patients.

There are four public hospitals, 34 dispensaries and several health centres, most of which are ill-equipped. County health executive Anne Gathoni couldn't be reached for a comment.

Mr Kagwe said the ministry had registered a surge in Covid-19 cases in Kiambu, Kajiado, Lamu, Makueni, Murang'a, Nyandarua, Nairobi, Taita Taveta and Tana River.

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