By Lawrence Aluru and Maureen Odiwuor
The country’s wanting state of public health facilities came to the fore yet again after three womenand six babies in Siaya County died while waiting for blood transfusions.
The patients died at the Siaya Referral Hospital in a span of three days due to lack of blood at the institution’s blood bank.
The babies died shortly after being admitted at the facility, as there was no blood for transfusion.
One of the three mothers bled to death while the rest succumbed to anaemia. The hospital could not find the correct blood group to transfuse them.
The deaths notwithstanding, other patients are also staring death in the face as they cannot be taken to the theatre for surgery because a blood shortage looms large at the county’s referral hospital.
The hospital’s Medical Superintendent Jackton Omoto said though they get blood from Kisumu, their requisition from the regional headquarters had not yielded any fruits since the blood bank has few units.
Dr Omoto said the six babies died as a result of lack of blood; the hospital’s blood bank can only hold five units at a time.
Quinter Otieno, a 20-year-old woman from Harambee village in Siaya was among those who lost their lives. She died while doctors were delivering her baby by Caesarean section (C-Section) at the weekend.
The doctors were able to save her baby, who is now being taken care of by a cousin, Rebecca Odongo. “There is nothing we can do but take care of the baby,” she said.
Ms Odongo said the family was yet to make a decision on whether to take legal action against the hospital for conducting an operation while knowing very well there was no blood in the bank.
Assistant Chairman for County Assembly in charge of Health Nicholas Were said the deaths at the facility were a result of negligence by the county government.
Even though the health officers did not disclose their frustration, Mr Were said the professionals were demoralised. He said the health workers have to ask for blood from as far as Butere, from where they were only able to get one unit “which is like a drop in the ocean”.
“The hospital staff said they lack non-pharmaceuticals, reagents and blood packs since there were no funds to buy them,” he said. But in a rejoinder, Sister in Charge of Nursing Lucy Wanyama said though they faced a shortage of reagents, the stock has since been acquired by the hospital.
The Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services (KNBTS) denied claims that they are facing an acute shortage of blood in Western region. KNBTS spokesman Makara Kamotho said such allegations were not true because the Kisumu blood donation centre has enough blood to save approximately 160 lives.
“The centre has 40 units of blood. One unit can save about four lives hence four lives should not have been lost over such an excuse,” he said.
Mr Kamotho said the hospital has not approached them for blood hence they should not claim it was denied to them.
“They serve approximately 60 hospitals in the region. Every hospital usually tells us their blood requirements and we have always provided,” he said.
He, however, acknowledged that the blood available at the moment was little since they get their supply from students, who have been on holiday. “We have realised that adults are slow to donate blood. For consistency, we want to engage adults to proactively donate more regularly,” he said. He said men can donate blood after every three months and women after four months. “Blood has a lifespan of 21 days but it never goes to waste because its components are usually extracted,” Kamotho said.
With the help of the Kenya Red Cross, KNBTS received more than 1,000 pints after Nairobi’s Westgate Mall attack that left several injured and more than 60 dead in September last year.
KNBTS Director Margaret Oduor said the national blood capacity stands at 200,000 units annually yet they have a target of over 400,000 units. “We are currently meeting half of our requirement. We need donors to come in regularly so that we reach our target,” Dr Oduor said.
Apart from Kisumu, there are five other regional blood donor centres; Nairobi, Embu, Mombasa, Nakuru and Eldoret. The Kisumu regional office has satellite offices in Kakamega and Kisii.