Single, young, unemployed and poorly educated men are the majority patients at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).
Some of the accident victims face bills of up to Sh500,000, and many are unable to pay.
The report is published in the current issue of the African Journal of Health Sciences by scientists from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
The high number of young men at the ICU with little ability to pay the huge bills, the researchers say, is a major strain on the hospital.
“The average lifetime cost of treating an individual with traumatic spinal cord injury is estimated to be between $500 000 and $2 million,” says the study led by Eunice Ibanda Chelogoi of JKUAT.
This, Chelogoi indicates, is a major problem for the youthful victims and their poor relatives, and suggests that more be enrolled with NHIF.
The research suggests that the high number of young men at the ICU is due to the general risk-taking behaviour of youthful men.
“We are telling them to marry because marriage has a calming effect on young men, as they reflect more on responsibilities,” says family counsellor Shane Mwiginyezi.
Of 71 severely injured patients admitted at the hospital’s ICU, in a one-year study period, 80 per cent were men aged under 40.
Forty-eight or 67.6 per cent were single, majority unemployed with secondary school or lower level of education.
About 60 per cent of the accidents were attributed to motorcycles and motor vehicles, with the latter causing a slightly higher number of crashes.
Some 35 per cent of the ICU patients, the report shows, were from hit-and-run accidents and victims brought to hospital by the police and good Samaritans.
On average, the patients stayed at the ICU for about 18 days each, accumulating a bill of about Sh25,010 daily, translating to about Sh450,195 for the whole stay.
“Only 6.4 per cent of the bill was cleared in cash and another 32 per cent through the National Health Insurance Fund.”
The majority of patients, 55.6 per cent, according to the report, were let off on uncertain credit terms.
The hospital, the report shows, spends Sh10 million every week to treat victims of road accidents.
The situation, the report shows, is worsened by the fact that most of the patients had suffered severe head injuries, some requiring lifelong spinal treatments.
The report shows that most of these young men are referred to KNH from other hospitals, especially when they become a debt liability.
Due to the high number of severely injured patients at the ICU, the authors report high deaths rates and low quality services.
The hospital, the report says, has been known to have received up to 40 severely injured patients in a span of 12 hours.
“KNH has also been known to receive about 216 accident victims in three weeks, which is alarming and untenable,” says the study.
Meanwhile, KNH says it is highly constrained to handle life-saving emergencies.
Medics at KNH say they have no capacity to adequately handle the increasing number of heart attack emergencies being received at the referral facility.
A wide range of professionals at the facility say KNH lacks the equipment, medicine and staff to handle life-threatening heart emergencies.
A report published on April 20 in the Cardiovascular Journal of Africa by researches from the hospital’s Division of Cardiology, the University of Nairobi, Northwestern University, US, and the University of Washington, indicates a worrying situation.
The team had investigated the hospital’s capacity to handle acute coronary syndrome (ACS), a condition requiring quick action to stop possible heart failure.
KNH is the only public hospital in Kenya with a specialised heart investigations laboratory, cardiologists, and cardiac surgeons.