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In Kerio Valley, patients risk treatment under gunfire

Majority of health facilities are incapable of handling complex procedures like gunshot wounds.  [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]  

David Kipchumba Kipkore, a clinical officer attached to Chesongoch Mission Hospital was shot dead by bandits three years ago in Kerio Valley.

The 29-year-old was riding a motorbike home with two others when they were sprayed with bullets at Chemukutet near Kapkobil Centre. Only Kipkore died. Increased banditry attacks since July last year has forced many families to relocate from Kerio Valley. Patients to among others; Tot Sub County Hospital, Arror Mission Hospital, Chesongoch Mission Hospital and Kilos Dispensary have dropped. Most are located on the floor of Kerio Valley where attacks are frequent.

Subsequently, the number of children, pregnant women and the elderly visiting hospitals has reduced, according to Caroline Kimwattan, an administrator at Arror Mission Hospital in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

“Pregnant women are not showing up for ante-natal clinics (ANC). We also have few delivering in hospital which means many of them are delivering at home which is very risky, “she said adding that vaccinations, preventive and curative care have dropped and “we fear emerging diseases might reappear.”

Majority of health facilities are incapable of handling complex procedures like gunshot wounds. For orthopedic review and treatment, patients are referred to Iten Referral Hospital or Kapsowar Mission Hospital and Referral Hospital in Eldoret over 100km away.

Dr Evans Kemboi, a medical officer at Tot Sub County Hospital expressed fear of leaving home as “you never know when the next attack will be. The insecurity has also affected access to health services at night.”  

Since last August, patients from neighbouring West Pokot and Tiaty to Tot Hospital began dwindling “after cases of insecurity escalated,” says Dr Kemboi.  

Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner John Korir confirmed “the decline in patients visiting Tot Sub County Hospital for fear of attacks. However, we have had one attack in the last two weeks and we are hoping these attacks will cease soon,” he said adding that some security officers were deployed and no government facility has closed due to insecurity.

Dr Kemboi noted that though there are police officers on patrol, Tot Sub County Hospital has no cops guarding it.

While Tot gets drugs and other medical supplies without failure or incidents, the same is not the case in other areas, and some healthcare workers have contemplated withdrawing their services and at some point, few reported to work.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Liaison Officer in Elgeyo Marakwet County, Dr Maurice Kipsang, said health workers “have been forced to return to work though unwillingly as attacks are still reported in the area.”

Scarcity of personnel does not help matters: Elgeyo Marakwet has one orthopedic surgeon based at Iten Referral Hospital and Chebiemit sub-county hospital in Marakwet West.

Dr Kipsang adds that though the county government held talks with health care workers to resume work, but efforts to get comments from county health officials were futile as our phone calls and text messages were not responded to.