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Seven patients in Nakuru County die as doctors' strike bites

COUNTIES
By Vincent Mabatuk and ANTONY GITONGA | September 21st 2016
Empty beds at the Maternity ward at Riftvalley provincial General Hospital, after Health workers in Nakuru county went on strike on September 20,2016. 7 patients died in two hospitals in the area yesterday as doctors protesting over delayed pay continued with their strike. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Seven patients died in two hospitals in Nakuru County yesterday as doctors protesting over delayed pay continued with their strike.

Five of the patients reportedly died in Nakuru’s Provincial General Hospital while two died at Naivasha Sub-County Hospital.

The two facilities also stopped admitting patients, apart from emergency cases, as the medical officers and consultants vowed that they would not resume duty.

And in Nairobi County, Governor Evans Kidero’s government issued a stern warning to striking doctors, saying they would be fired if they did not report to work by today.

County Secretary Robert Ayisi complained that despite a court order that suspended the strike, medical workers in the county had failed to return to work even after being paid salaries for the last six months, which was one of the reasons they went on strike.

In Nakuru, Joseph Mburu, the superintendent of Naivasha Sub-County Hospital, said 26 medical officers and consultants were on strike.

He said that although the outpatient department was operating normally, services in the wards had been adversely affected.

Stayed away

“We are no longer admitting patients apart from emergencies as the medical officers and consultants have stayed away,” he said.

But Dr Mburu said the two patients who died at the hospital had been sick for some time and their deaths had nothing to do with the strike.

“At the moment, we are relying on the few clinical officers present as the county government resolves the matter,” he said.

At Nakuru Provincial General Hospital, hundreds of patients continued to suffer as their frustrated relatives made arrangements to transfer them to other facilities. By yesterday, patients were being attended to by unsupervised interns and clinical officers as doctors stayed away.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that more than five patients died in the hospital. Some patients were transferred to private hospitals in Nakuru town, but those whose relatives could not afford the transfer costs were left to bear the situation in the hospital.

Health services also remained paralysed in the hospital’s casualty while the maternity ward was empty as expectant women were turned away. Inside the ward, beds were unattended, a testimony to the agony women have experienced.

“You mean the woman who lost a baby last night was your relative? The baby died yesterday and she left this morning; kindly communicate with her by phone,” said a nurse who was found chatting with her colleagues outside.

Resolve stalemate

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union South Rift acting Secretary General Hillary Kubai said doctors would stay away until the county listened to them.

This is not the first time that doctors are downing their tools to agitate for better working conditions and pay.

Dr Kubai said some doctors and medical personnel had not been paid for the last few months.

“The county is aware of our predicament but they have decided to turn a blind eye. The only way they can listen to the doctors is through strike action.

“Let it remain clear that we are not asking for something out of this world. Our demands are within their reach and we are requesting the governor to come and resolve the stalemate and save patients from their agony,” said Kubai.

Wilkister Nyambura was among scores of patients who sought medical assistance at the facility yesterday. Despite being very sick, she arrived at the hospital in the morning but accidentally fell on the concrete outside the casualty area.

“Look at my legs. They are very weak and it’s impossible for me to walk again. Nobody has offered to help to me. A nurse told me to look for somebody to push me inside and walked away,” she said, tears wetting her blouse.

She was among five patients who spent the better part of the day at the casualty.

And Alice Ng’ang’a, whose leg was recently amputated due to diabetes, sat for over five hours in her wheelchair while relatives struggled to find money to take her to a private hospital.

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