Nairobi, Kenya: Authorities are still looking for at least 70 mentally ill patients who escaped from Mathari Hospital following a strike by doctors and nurses.
At least 87 patients were reported to have escaped from their wards but only 17 had been found near the facility along Thika Road and returned. Among those recovered was boxer Conjestina Achieng who had been admitted there on Thursday. She was the only woman who escaped from their ward before being found along Thika Road an hour later.
The patients broke out of their wards after the nurses who usually attend to them failed to turn up, the hospital management said.
Superintendent Dr Julius Ogato said when the patients failed to see the nurses to usually attend to them they decided to leave their facilities.
“I don’t know if they were incited but what we know is that they had not seen their nurses and some had not taken their medicine which prompted this. We don’t know how many escaped but we are compiling the figures,” he said.
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Other officials however said 87 had escaped in the morning drama.
Dr Ogato said the crisis was biting, as they did not have personnel to take care of the 850 patients who are there. Out of these, 200 are prisoners who are however in isolation wards. More prison warders and nurses from prisons were sent there to take care of the poisoners as part of efforts to address the crisis.
Dr Ogato said when he reported to work he found the patients wandering in and out of the compound. They had overwhelmed security guards on duty.
“We deal with mental patients and these guards could not handle. Some stripped naked and left their uniforms in and out of the compound before escaping,” he said. He appealed for help to return the patients because they need special attention and care.
“If they miss medication they may turn violent or worsen. That is why we need them back here,” said Dr Ogato.
He said the hospital has 196 nurses and eight psychiatrists but only one pharmacist and two psychiatrists had turned up for duties yesterday.
The doctors and nurses started their strike yesterday pushing for a better pay.
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Police were mobilized and came to help in pursuing the missing patients. Head of Nairobi Area police operations Abdalla Shariff said they had deployed a number of armed officers to various hospitals to provide security.
“We are aware of the strike and that is why we have deployed officers to various institutions to provide security to those working,” said Shariff.
Witnesses said they saw the patients scale walls and jump out before some stripped naked and ran away to the streets and nearby Mathare slums.
“There is nothing we could have done because they ran away as soon as they were out. We don’t know where they ended up but I fear some could be hit by vehicles,” said a witness Sammy Mwangi.
Pictures taken at the site showed the patients jump from the two meter tall wall and wire donned in blue uniforms before escaping. They included those with acute conditions and under rehabilitation.