A 16-year-old girl with an estimated 50 degree burns was turned away at Kenyatta National Hospital after a 14-hour journey from Wajir to Nairobi.
Haretha Yusuf could not be admitted in KNH because Wajir Referral Hospital had not contacted the country’s biggest referral hospital according to procedure.
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The girl had initially been taken to a local hospital in Khorof Harar, but was referred to Wajir Referral Hospital.
“They do not have much at the hospital in my village, so they asked us to go to Wajir Referral Hospital, which is about 45km away,” said Yusuf Adan, the girl’s father.
The medics in Wajir said she had suffered 50 per cent burns and needed urgent medical assistance at KNH.
“We had no money and did not know how we would get there. The hospital asked us to fuel the ambulance for the trip to Nairobi and back. It was at this point that I sought the help of well-wishers,” said Mr Adan.
With a referral letter dated April 4, they set off on the gruelling journey to Nairobi, which saw the wounds worsen in the sweltering heat.
“The wounds started festering, her skin was peeling by the time we arrived at the hospital. Our journey was not easy, but we held onto hope that she would finally be treated,” he said.
But at KNH, their hope faded as they ran up against bureaucratic procedures.
“We spoke to anyone we could for more than three hours while she lay in the ambulance. All of them said we could not be helped,” he said.
Desperate, and with the girl in agony, they opted to go to Al Amin Hospital in Eastleigh.
“I thought she was going to die but the ambulance crew said they could find us a hospital,” said Yusuf.
The KNH Corporate Affairs Manager Simon Ithai and acting Director of Clinical Services Peter Masinde confirmed that the patient could not be admitted at the hospital.
Mr Ithai explained the hospital in Wajir referred Haretha without following laid down referral protocols.
“The hospital did not have a vacant ICU bed. Contrary to the referral guideline requirements, the referring hospital had not contacted KNH. That could have been avoided instead of delivering the patient just to determine that there were no beds,” he said.
Mr Masinde said there were no beds available in the burns unit, and advised the family to have the girl admitted in the private wing while waiting for a free bed in the ICU.
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“Once a person was discharged from the ICU burns unit we would have considered her,” he said.
He said the hospital had only 31 ICU beds, 12 extra in case of emergencies, and 14 set aside for the burn victims.
“They were all full and we could not move any patients at the time,” said Masinde.
Ithai said Haretha could not be admitted in the general ward because of the seriousness of her wounds, and advised the family to keep contacting KNH to check whether there was a bed available.
Meanwhile, the girl’s father has said the hospital bill at Al Amin Hospital is already too high.
“We have a bill of more than Sh500,000. I do not have the money; I do not know if they will let me seek treatment in another hospital,” said the father of nine.