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Outrage as KNH fights off rape claims


 KNH CEO Lily Koros with Health CS Cleopa Mailu at the hospital. They ordered investigations into reports of rape case. [Edward Kiplimo |Standard]

It was trouble in paradise as East Africa’s largest referral, Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), battled social media rape allegations. 

KNH, often billed as a marker where lives are returned from the jaws of death, remained in sharp focus last evening after a whistle blower accused its staff of rape.

What started off as a social media chat on a popular Facebook page, swirled up into monumental crisis which forced Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopha Mailu to address the nation.

Mildred Owiso, one of the administrators of the group ‘Buyer Beware’ claimed she had met a woman who had just given birth and had nearly been raped when she went to breastfeed her baby at 3am in the morning.

“Security is a big issue, especially for mothers whose kids are in the nursery. Apparently, they need to go breastfeed their babies after every two hours or so. The nurseries are at the ground floor, and the mothers on third floor. Today, I met a lady who was nearly raped,” she said.

The Saturday Standard could not authenticate these claims as the hospital management declined to allow reporters to visit the maternity wing. Cabinet Secretary and hospital CEO Lily Koros, the latter who cut short her leave to calm the waters, did not help matters when they issued vague statements. They both however seemed to agree that circumstances for such incident do exist in the hospital.

“I am not saying it happened, but we know a citizen can just say something that is not true,”  Mr Mailu said.

He said he had been informed of not just these latest allegations but of some cases that date way back in 2012 and 2016, some of which he said happened in other facilities.

“These are incidents, not supposed to happen, but unfortunately they happen,” said the CS.

Deadly 3am trips

Cases of medics taking advantage of the vulnerability of women under their care are not new. In 2015, the country was treated to gory TV footage of what looked like a doctor assaulting his victims.

A popular city doctor Mugo wa Wairimu was later charged in court of among other charges rape. Many other cases in little known health facilities spread across the length and breadth of the country are said to go on unreported.

KNH which has at least 2,000 beds, 209 of them in the private wing is manned by CCTV cameras installed in 2016 after the brutal killing of a cancer patient. The case has never been resolved. The cameras can store footage for just a month which hospital CEO Koros admitted may not provide sufficient evidence if indeed the claims are true.

“Our own internal investigations that involved skimming through the footages may not have been that comprehensive,” she said.

Officers from the DCI yesterday afternoon started collecting statements from the hospital’s management, security and patients. Sources from the Kilimani Police Station whose officers are leading the probe said no victim has come forward so far.

Meanwhile, the scenario at KNH is troubling.  Mothers who have just given birth sleep on third floor while the nurseries are on the first floor which means they have to shuttle between floors when they want to breastfeed or check on their babies.

However, KNH is an expansive complex which is not properly lit on all points and at times some of its lifts do not work. At night it turns virtually empty with few people on its corridors and apart from officers from Kenya Prisons stationed there to guard sick prisoners there is hardly any Government security present.

Last year, Senate’s Health Committee complained in a report that the hospital has a deficiency of security officers. Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union has demanded the immediate enhancement of security at the facility.

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