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Give free drugs to contain malaria, says Senator Bonny Khalwale

By ROBERT AMALEMBA | Sun,May 31 2015 00:00:00 EAT

Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale has proposed a raft of measures  to help  curb malaria deaths at the Kakamega General hospital.

This came following reports that 12 children below the age of five had died of malaria in the past two weeks in the hospital's Paediatric 'Ward Five A'. There have also been increased admissions of malaria patients.

"We want Kakamega hospitals to stock sufficient anti-malaria and malaria drugs, make malaria treatment free, establish a satellite blood centre  and employ more staff to curb malaria and other common ailments that are killing our people," Khalwale said after visiting malaria patients in the facility.

Senator Khalwale, who once worked as a doctor at the Kakamega hospital, regretted that the number of deaths kept increasing yet there was money in the hospital's account that could help save lives.

"In the first year of devolution, I fought to get a Sh311 million conditional grant specifically to deal with medical situations in this hospital. In the second year, I got Sh196 million and in the coming financial year we will have Sh146 million. How then do preventive deaths occur due to lack of essentials such as malaria medicine when more than Sh500 million lies in the account?" he posed.

Hospital health administrator Caleb Khasiani admitted that the money was in the hospital's bank account, but said it was earmarked for long-term development: "Sh310 million is being used to upgrade this hospital to a teaching and referral hospital while the rest went to a water project."

He attributed the malaria crisis to a shortage of staff and lack of a proper blood store in the hospital, making it difficult to deal with acute cases of the disease. He, however, could not confirm the exact number of deaths.

"This being the only referral hospital in this region, we receive patients with severe malaria, some come lacking blood. We plead with our people to develop the culture of donating blood," he said.

Khasiani denied claims that the hospital was operating two pharmacies—one which was  well-stocked and selling drugs at an inflated price, while the cheaper one was under-stocked.

"We don't sell malaria drugs to patients. The (controversial) Amenity Wing pharmacy is meant for patients under the National Hospital Insurance Fund scheme, who get drugs at different rates," he said.

Kakamega health executive Peninah Mukabane dismissed the number of deaths reported at the facility, saying the situation at the hospital was under control.

"We had seven deaths last weekend, but the five deaths reported on Thursday were an exaggeration," she said, assuring residents that the county would supply the hospital with drugs in the coming week.

"We will issue drugs. We have already issued one million nets to help contain the spread of the disease," she said.

Mukabane admitted that there was a shortage of nurses at the hospital but said all the nurses who had been on leave had been recalled.

A disaster response team clinician, Ms Josephine Oribo, said that in the last fortnight, more than 300 malaria cases have been handled at the hospital's 50-bed paediatric ward that had 103 malaria patients when The Standard on Sunday visited.

Most of the patients are referred from the 12 sub-county hospitals, which are reported to lack adequate drugs.

The children's ward is usually manned by two nurses but other nurses were brought in to help manage the crisis.

The hospital has 220 nurses—15 retired between August 2014 and May 2015 and one died. The county has recently employed eight nurses.

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