Murang'a's mystery of a 35 beds capacity ICU in 21 days

Final touches at Murang’a ICU centre. [Boniface Gikandi/Standard]

Last month, Governor Mwangi Wa Iria promised a 35-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward at Murang’a Level Five Hospital in 21 days.

The construction started on April 11 and 21 days ended yesterday.

When the Saturday Standard visited the hospital, the ward building was complete and technicians were busy installing ICU beds in what will be one of the most ambitious coronavirus preparedness projects in the country.

Once fully equipped, the facility will be the biggest ICU ward in Central Kenya, and the fastest labour-intensive county medical project in Kenya.

According to the governor, the project is part of a grand plan to secure the county’s one million population from the worst, should Covid-19 continue spreading.

According to data from the Health ministry, only two people from Murang’a have tested positive for Covid-19 so far, with 80 people quarantined at the Murang’a Teachers Training College. Yesterday, the county started installing ICU beds, some donated by local firms. On Tuesday, Kakuzi Limited donated three specialised beds.

Two beds had been installed by 1pm, and according to the governor, the ward will be ready to admit its first patient today.

“By midnight we intend to have installed 19 beds,” said Wa Iria.

The speed in which the project was completed was mind-boggling. By Wednesday, the County Public Service Board had recruited and trained 12 nurses for the special ward. 

Governor wa Iria personally supervised the project everyday, assisted by county architects and engineers.

Why Murang’a?

Located at the edge of the Nairobi Metropolitan where a barrier to restrict movement to and from the city has been erected, Health ministry officials say Murang’a is as susceptible to Covid-19 as Kenya’s border counties. 

Hundreds of travellers keen to break the movement restriction barrier have been terminating their journeys at Murang’a, making the facility critical for both local residents and those living beyond its borders.

According to Wa Iria, the project envisioned emergency responses beyond the current coronavirus outbreak. 

“This facility will benefit many Kenyans and save residents from being rushed to the congested Kenyatta National Referral Hospital whenever they need specialised treatment,” he said.

Engineer Amos Njoroge, the County’s Public Works executive, and the man tasked with delivering the project in 21 days, said quality was not compromised by the speed in which it was executed.

“The structure is 600 metre square and a lot of professionalism was involved in the construction,” he said.

County Health executive Joseph Mbai said the idea to establish the ICU facility was conceived long before Covid-19 came calling.

“The county did not have a single ICU bed in all public or private facilities. The sirens of ambulances rushing critically ill patients to Thika and Nairobi were a common sight,” said Mbai. Meanwhile, the country continued distributing free masks and sanitisers in the battle to ward off Covid-19 in the region.

Yesterday, Murang’a University of Technology donated 5,000 masks for distribution in tea farms across the region. Between them, local village polytechnics have been directed to produce at least 25,000 masks per day.

Distribution of free masks to the most vulnerable residents started with boda boda riders and market traders three weeks ago.

Boda boda riders received 10,000 masks as Wa Iria called for immediate arrest of anyone flouting Health ministry regulations to combat Covid-19, including parents who allow children out of their homes.

“All children should be contained at home, those who will be caught loitering will be taken to quarantine centres together with their parents at their own cost,” he said.

Murang’a Level Five Hospital laboratory is producing 1,000 litres of sanitisers per week, for free distribution in the county.