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Covid-19 has shown the need for critical care infrastructure

By Abhishek Vishnu | February 28th 2021

Abhishek Vishnu, Head of the Department of Critical Care Medicine, The Nairobi West Hospital.

The thought of being admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) sends shivers down anyone’s spine. Yet we pray that when fate lands one there, we bank on the plethora of modern equipment, cumulative experience of the specialist doctors and advanced medicine to save a life.

In the same breath, therefore, the importance of advancement in critical care medicine in Kenya as part of the healthcare system cannot be understated. The growing numbers of patients seeking this specialised treatment calls for adequate infrastructure, training, equipment and funding.

And not just funding to purchase more modern beds, which are of little value if not accompanied by requisite medical professionals. For example, critically ill patients on ventilators require expert care by critical care physicians trained to calibrate and monitor the machines to optimise a patient’s respiratory status. I am talking of knowledgeable medics who can make key decisions around medical management.

If there is a lesson we have learnt from the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, it is that delicate care of seriously ill patients coupled with hospitals’ readiness to handle such emergency patients en masse, yet observing utmost professionalism and care, tests the nerves and preparedness of even the best.

It calls for proper planning and investment in equipment and trained manpower. It is the only way. My employer, The Nairobi West Hospital, has decided to completely upgrade its critical management. Now with our new ultra-modern wing, we are putting our best efforts to make our ICU the most advanced in East Africa.

I can nod to the heavy investment in an ultramodern ICU, which underscores the importance of having a state-of-the-art critical care infrastructure as the backbone of our operations.

Such a facility represents the pinnacle of any hospital’s approach to highly technological and sophisticated in-patient care. This pandemic has forced many hospital administrators to make fundamental changes in the way they allocate staff, space and machines — fundamental changes that may have been unthinkable before the pandemic.


While most people know of ICU and its importance to the survival of critically ill patients, we need to simplify why critical care medicine (CCM) is crucial to any specialised hospital.

CCM is a specialty that involves the management of patients with life-threatening, frequently complex medical and surgical illnesses in a specialised ICU or similar facility. The CCM physician, also called an intensivist in some parts of the world, has expertise in the evaluation and management of these patients.

The critically ill patients may have dysfunction or failure of one or more organ systems such as the cardiac, pulmonary, neurologic, liver, kidney or gastrointestinal systems. In the ICU, they will undergo various procedures to support and identify the cause of the critical illness.

As an Indian Certified Critical Care Physician (Intensivist) with almost 20 years of experience, coming from a country renowned for its world class medical facilities, I am pleased to note that The Nairobi West Hospital is making great strides in modernisation of its ICU infrastructure. It makes my work and that of my colleagues easier, when you have a modern ICU department that is well-spaced with modern beds and equipment.

With all this modernisation and highly trained staff, Kenyans should feel comfortable seeking specialised medical care in their own beautiful country.

Some investments are worth noting: With beds equipped with latest physiological monitoring systems to the abundance of conventional ventilators with latest ventilatory modes and respiratory mechanics analysis facilities, I can confidently say as an intensivist, we are ready for any medical challenge. 

- The writer is Head of the Department of Critical Care Medicine, The Nairobi West Hospital

Covid 19 Time Series


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