Deserted KNH turns into centre for few helpless critical patients

An elderly woman lies on a slab near Information Center at Kenyatta National Hospital on March 03,2024 where she had gone to seek treatment. Doctors' strike has subjected patients to extreme suffering. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

On the sixth floor of Kenyatta National Hospital, Isaac Kariuki lies on his bed along the corridor. He cannot walk or sit. He has a cracked spine. He fell in February, was brought at KNH and that corridor has been his home ever since. 

He is among patients in need of critical care at the hospital after patients with less serious ailments were transferred to other hospitals due to the ongoing doctors’ strike. 

He says he has been left to spend his sick days along the corridors because nurses believe he may be suicidal and could jump down through the window and kill himself if left in a ward. He says that is bad sarcasm because he cannot walk. 

“I have been here for the last two months, my spine cracked and I cannot even walk. I was to be operated on so that I can get back on my feet again. Even after required materials were bought by my kin, I have not been assisted because of the doctors’ strike. I have to keep lying here in desperation,” he says. 

When The Standard visited the hospital, suffering was evident everywhere.

On one of the slabs near what is called Information Centre, an elderly woman who had come to seek treatment is sleeping. She came to the hospital at 8am and by afternoon had not been attended to. 

As we make our observation tour at the hospital, a taxi pulls up with a patient at the Emergency Department. There is no one to receive the patient. His kin look for a wheel chair. They struggle with the patient.  They are overwhelmed and the taxi driver comes to help them.  The weak patient is wheeled towards the reception area but the medical staff seem unbothered. A few of them hang around as if waiting for some meeting.  

Inside the hospital, there is real agony. 

Nurses appear helpless and can do little without physicians to give prescriptions. Both key health workers downed tools, beginning with doctors followed by clinical officers. 

A woman from maternity is writhing in pain next to a flower vase on the ground floor.

“Here we are treated when the medical staff on duty wish to,” she tells us.

As we engage her in a conversation, she says she had a Caesarian Section at Pumwani Hospital but cleaning the wound was not properly done. That forced her to come to Kenyatta National Hospital for corrective surgery. 

“Since last week, my wound has not been dressed. I am in great pain and am not sure I will survive this. They only give me pain killers to numb my pain,” she says, tears flowing down her cheeks. 

She says last week alone, she saw two patients die for lack of attention after delivery. 

As we walk into the wards, we are met with empty beds. Only critically ill patients remain. Some say that doctors with offices within the facility come to see them privately.  

The wards with the most patients are the accident and maternity one. Other patients are those who cannot manage the cost of private hospitals and cannot go home because of their condition. 

A staff at the hospital intimated to The Standard team that most of the patients were discharged after the doctors’ strike began and admissions have been restricted to specific cases only. 

In the corridors, we meet only KMTC students. Their uniforms are different from those of physicians. They are the majority of the health workers. Most nurses’ stations are not manned and so patients are on their own.

As we move out after visiting hours elapsed, we see an ambulance carting away three female patients to an unknown destination. We later learnt that they were cancer patients that were being taken to another facility for routine treatment.