Teresia Ojala, a former traditional birth attendant based in Maweni Mombasa. PHOTO: JECKONIA OTIENO

The ongoing nurses' strike in public hospitals has seen dozens of people turn to herbalists and traditional birth attendants (TBAs) for medical attention.

In Nyanza region, herbalists are smiling all the way to the bank as patients turn to them three months into the strike with no end in sight.

In Trans Nzoia County, many pregnant women are seeking prenatal care and birth services from TBAs as investigations by The Standard show they are unable to afford the services offered in private clinics, which charge between Sh25,000 and Sh60,000.

This is despite warnings from health experts that it is unsafe to use traditional midwives.

Lucy Wairimu, the mother of a two-month-old baby girl, said she attended Kitale County Referral Hospital for prenatal care but by the time she was due, the nurses had gone on strike.

"I could not afford the Sh30,000 delivery fee charged by a local private nursing home and that was when a friend introduced me to a TBA,” said Ms Wairimu.

She is among several women who have benefited from the free services offered by Violet Nanjala, a TBA in Village Inn, Kiminini sub-county.

Free services

Ms Nanjala, a mother of five and a grandmother, says she has been offering her services for free for the past four years.

Since the nurses' strike began, Nanjala has attended to 15 pregnant women and offered prenatal care to more than 30 others.

And across the Nyanza region, spot checks showed that herbalists were putting up promotional material such as banners to attract patients.

When The Standard visited Justus Keroge, a self-proclaimed herbalist in Kisumu County, there was a large group of patients with bone fractures waiting to be seen.

Mr Keroge, who treats fractures using herbs, said many patients were knocking on his door at all hours, seeking his services.

“I receive around 30 patients with fractures daily and I treat more than 20,” said Keroge.

Medicinal herbs

He said he got his medicinal herbs from Mt Elgon and with the current increased demand, he was having to make several trips to get them.

“Patients are coming from as far as Mombasa and Nairobi in search of treatment. I am taking in twice as many patients as I used to,” he said.

Keroge attributed the increase in the number of patients to the work boycott by nurses and clinical officers across the country.

The situation is the same in Siaya, Kisii, Nyamira, Homa Bay and Migori where desperate patients are seeking alternative and affordable medical solutions to their health issues.

The nurses' strike over payment entered its 110th day yesterday.