Just a day after surgery, a patient is wheeled out of award and sent home at the Kenyatta National Hospital on December 21.
DISCHARGED:Just a day after surgery, a patient is wheeled out of award and sent home at the Kenyatta National Hospital on December 21 /Photo/COURTESY


At one hospital, you needed a serious injury  – maybe a crushed leg – to be seen by two exhausted nurses who did not go on strike.

At another, a patient was discharged a day after major surgery.

Only the mortuary was open at another facility. 

Countrywide, thousands of people in need were turned away from public hospitals.  

This was the situation in public health facilities on Monday as doctors joined nurses and clinical officers in a nationwide strike while the country battles the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nurses and clinical officers went on strike on December 7.

Their demands include comprehensive health insurance, Covid-19 treatment, PPE, higher risk allowances, promotions, designations, back pay and a national health services commission. Doctors’ demands are similar.

At Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, the accidents and emergencies wing remained open but was staffed by two weary nurses who sent away most patients.

The situation was the same everywhere and private hospitals said they will soon be full and will be overwhelmed if the strike continues.

Care seekers who said they cannot afford fees in private hospitals said they would take their needy patients back home and wait for any eventuality.

At Coast General Hospital in Mombasa, only the emergency department was open on Monday and security guards were instructed to turn away patients who are not ‘seriously injured’.

“Wagonjwa wa kawaida hawapati matibabu (routine medical check-ups are not available),” said a security officer at the gate.

Patient Rose Makulia, who had a doctor’s appointment on Monday, said you need to ‘know someone’ to see any of the few doctors still working.

“My uncle had to call a doctor who is his friend before I was allowed to see him. Security is beefed up in all the offices with the few doctors around. There’s at least one security officer at the door,” Makulia said.

Another patient said that to be allowed into the emergency department you must be seriously injured.

Her two-year-old baby has a vein disorder but was turned away.

“You must have strong evidence before you are allowed to access the emergency department which has two doctors, for example, a plaster on your hand, leg or evident serious injury,” she said.

Amina Mohammed, who had taken her father for treatment, was referred to a private hospital.

“I brought my father because he was complaining of body aches but we have been told there are no services unless it’s an emergency issue,” Mohammed said.

In Kwale, Mwanahamisi Ali, whose father has high blood sugar, high blood pressure and arthritis, said the medics’ strike was the biggest threat to his life.

She said this was the second time her father has missed his regular check-up and other services to manage arthritis and stabilise his blood sugar and hypertension.

“Last Tuesday, I took my father for the blood sugar and blood pressure clinic at Kwale County Hospital but unfortunately there were no services. We were told medics were on strike.”

Her father’s health deteriorates by the day, she said, but private hospitals are too expensive.

Ali said one dose of insulin for a diabetic is about Sh5,000 and it is required every three weeks.

Halima Rashid, an expectant mother, said she was forced to go home because of the go-slow at Msambweni Hospital on Monday morning. She is five months’ pregnant.

Halima said she can’t afford maternity services in private hospitals as they are very costly.

“I don’t have anything, what is left is fare to take me back to Ramisi and the non-government clinics are expensive,” she said.

The mother said she will have to take a risk and seek midwives’ services until normalcy is restored in public health facilities.

Kwale Health executive Francis Gwama said, “We are doing everything possible to keep the services running as the national government and medics try to solve the problems.”

In Western Kenya most public hospitals’ services have ground to a halt.

At Kisumu County Hospital, heavily pregnant Myrose Otieno, who is due to give birth at any time, said she does not know where she will deliver as private hospitals are expensive.

She’s due for a final check-up on Wednesday but fears no one will attend to her.

Only the psychiatric ward and the HIV clinic were partially operating.

Medical superintendent Francis Oyugi said they were forced to halt all services and send away all admitted patients.

At the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital, Henry Ouma was being wheeled out of the ward and sent home, a day after surgery to partially remove his urinary bladder.

Ouma said the nurses told him that if the pain gets worse, he should seek treatment at a private facility.

“It’s very sad because I could not afford the private hospitals, that’s why I came here. I don’t know what will happen to me should I be in an emergency,” he said.

Another patient, 16-year-old Jane Achieng, was discharged though she still needed more medication for her sickle cell anaemia.

A few of the contract nurses who are not on strike at the facility said they were overwhelmed.

Benard Owino, the nurse in charge at Ahero Subcounty Hospital, said the maternity wing was open but there were only one or two nurses. The theatre was closed.

The facility sees 100 to 200 patients daily and medics deliver more than 10 babies a day. It’s paralysed.

“The situation is very unfortunate since people are suffering and with time they might start dying,” Owino said.

“Ahero covers a large area, especially for maternity, but due to the strike, women have been forced to deliver in their homes, which is kind of risky.

“I wish the government could hear our grievances out to enable us to attend to the people.”

In Kisii county, beds at most public hospitals remained empty as the doctors strike began Monday.

Long before the doctors announced their strike, caregivers had already pulled most patients from most public hospitals, citing lack of health services.

Mogire Ochoe, who accompanied his mother to the hospital, said he processed her admission to Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital on Thursday but was forced to request a discharge on Monday morning. Nobody had attended to her throughout the weekend.

“Initially we had thought the doctors would attend to her but it appears they are too overwhelmed,” he told the Star outside the facility.

The situation has forced most people to take their patients to private and mission hospitals.

A few others sought referrals to Tenwek in Bomet and Kijabe Hospital in  Nakuru county.

Private facilities in Kisii town – Christamarianne Mission, Nyanchwa Adventist, Getembe, Oasis and Nyangena – reported soaring admissions.

Some caregivers said they did not have the money to take their patients to private hospitals.

“I do not have money to take my ailing father to a private hospital. Due to lack of money, we thought it was good to purchase drugs for him as we wait for the doctor’s strike to end,” George Omori said.

Proprietors of private hospitals said they will soon run out of beds if the strikes go on.

“Already, we are at full bed capacity, let’s be optimistic these strikes will end soon,” an official at Christamarianne Hospital said.