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Kenya should urgently set up a major hospital for infectious diseases

COMMENTARY
By Mark Bichachi | June 11th 2020

Though the reality of Covid-19 still seems far removed from many of us, its ravages to our pockets and ways of life is very real. We can not run away from the fact that it is not business as usual.

Somehow we have to figure a way out. We have to learn to manage Covid-19 rather than die from it. Indeed, the cessation of movement, the curfew and the wearing of masks has slowed the spread of coronavirus. There is, however, no way to completely stop the spread of the virus. As such we must strategise afresh.

As individuals, we must change how we live and how we conduct business. We must stay safe; maintain social distance and avoid crowded places. We must resist the temptation to get drunk in the company of many.

It is time for both the drinkers and the drinkers do so at home. Even after bars and places of worship open, we must reorganise how these common places are arranged.

We can no longer have clubs without seating or dancing spaces. We can no longer have the long bathroom queues to access a toilet with no water for washing hands or limited space to stay one metre from each other. Cleanliness, it seems, will finally visit our clubs and maybe we may finally use the toilets properly without hovering precariously over them. Can I hear an amen?

At the same time, businessfolk must have learnt by now that they can hold meetings online and that the trip across town for a meeting is no longer necessary. The saving on logistics and time is astronomical. Take it from me, my car has never enjoyed such high levels of fuel so consistently.

Unique honour

Businesses must adapt to the new reality of recession. They must ride the slowdown out. Government can only do so much - the rest will be about strategy, timing and risk-management. The business that finds a way to survive even if by clawing on its nails will thrive as the recession ends. Indeed, the companies that did not shut down during the last recession thrived thereafter.

This brings me to government which has the unique honour of heading our response to Covid-19. True, a lot has been done but still, a lot more can be done.

County governments, for instance, must now build hospital capacity instead of just buying ambulances to be used as mobile billboards of their leaders. They must put down the brick and mortar, staff and equipment necessary to treat the infected.

The national government must now consider erecting an infectious disease referral hospital as a minimum to end Covid-19 restrictions.

It is time we copied Singapore and match its success in containing the contagion by creating a hospital where the risk of infection is greatly reduced due to its design on air circulation, waste management and focus on staff safety.

Zika virus

The need for such a hospital is underscored by the fact that America has over 60,000 infected health workers, Spain has over 40,000 and Italy has over 19,000. 

In contrast South Korea, Japan and Singapore all have less than 300 infected health workers.

These statistics underscore the urgency for Kenya to put up its own infectious diseases hospital that acts as a buckstop for the county hospitals that are looking to expand.

Such a hospital should be a must for any country, just as we have cancer and spinal injury hospitals.

This should not just be for Covid-19. As world travel increases and the risk of infectious diseases rise, we must prepare for the real possibilities of a 'Covid-20', Zika virus or even Ebola on our soil.

As such, a hospital for infectious diseases will be the first line of defence against Covid-19 and or any other highly infectious disease. Hopefully the unit should have at least 300 beds. 

Such a facility would make Kenya an attractive medical tourism destination for our region. This will bring in much needed revenue and further cement our place as leaders in the region.

Let us not forget it is in Kenya that the Burundi's lady ran to when she fell ill.

This hospital will make the national government responsive to any outbreak anywhere in the country including the now common cholera outbreaks.

This will also make the Big Four Agenda pillar of universal health care become a reality and change the Kenyan healthcare forever.

To beat this pandemic, both the government and citizens must adapt or we all perish in shallow graves; literally and economically.

Mr Bichachi is a communication consultant

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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