The state of most public hospitals in Kenya is depressing. Whereas hospitals should operate in sterile environments, the opposite obtains as a recent study has shown.
In June this year, a public hospital in Kirinyaga County was closed by public health officers for operating in a filthy environment.
Among things that prompted the temporal closure of the hospital were blood contaminated/stained clothing, clogged toilets, dirty sinks and litter across the hospital compound.
Indeed, so bad was the situation that a cholera outbreak was reported in the paediatric ward. In April this year, a cholera outbreak was reported at the prestigious Nairobi Hospital in which one staff member succumbed while seven were hospitalised with 23 patients being isolated.
These cases are symptomatic of the general malaise in public hospitals. Post devolution, hospitals previously known as provincial general hospitals were upgraded to referral hospitals.
The downside of this is that the upgrading was in name only, for many lack requisite facilities like infrastructure, equipment and staff to match the status of referral hospitals.
Despite being aware that contaminated water, food and unclean toilets are agents of cholera, many public hospital managements have failed to ensure the provision of clean drinking water and enough clean toilets to cater for both patients and staff members.
That hygiene is paramount seems to have eluded them.
A recent study by Kenya Medical Research Institute, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands and the University of Oxford published in the journal Plos One shows that top county hospitals do not have adequate toilets, lack piped water and storage for safe drinking water, hence jeopardising the lives of patients and workers.
Overall, 42 per cent of public hospitals lack lighting and do not have connected water taps while, to a larger extent, men and women share toilets in wards. This goes against the rules of decency.
In part, the report says: “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (wash) in healthcare facilities is critical in the provision of safe and quality care. Poor sanitation increases hospital-associated infections and contributes to the rise of drug resistance”.
It is time for the Health ministry to pull up its socks and measure up to public expectation.
Budgetary allocations and money raised from cost-sharing should be put to good use uplifting standards in public hospitals.
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