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KNH defends move to isolate mothers, babies


 South B ward representative Waithera Chege (second left) and other MCAs hold a baby at Kenyatta National Hospital when they donated food and other items to new mothers. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Kenyatta National Hospital board has defended the decision to have mothers and their newborns on different floors.

The board’s chairman Mark Bor said mothers and their children could not stay in one room for clinical reasons to avoid infections.

This comes even as the Government is today expected to make public a report detailing what exactly transpired at the hospital following allegations of rape from patients.

On Monday, the Government also said it would deploy the National Youth Service (NYS) to guard KNH following reports of waning security at the country’s largest referral health facility.

Even as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations looked into the matter, the hospital continued to defend itself against the allegations.

Control infection

“The infants in the newborn unit are separated from their mothers for clinical reasons, such as to offer the infants Intensive Care Unit (ICU) support and control infection,” said Mr Bor.

Bor, however, said they had asked the facility’s management to explore if functionally, breastfeeding mothers could be relocated closer to the newborn unit for their convenience.

While the newborn unit is located on the first floor, mothers are admitted into the maternity wards located on the ground floor and others in the paediatric unit on the third floor.

This forces them to walk in groups for security reasons, which KNH boss Lily Koros argued was because their breastfeeding times were the same.

The 3am breastfeeding time coincides with the hour morticians pick bodies.

Ms Koros said at no time do the two groups meet as the morticians use the service lifts, which are separate.

But Bor said the board had approved with immediate effect the engagement of additional security from private security firms and also requested the National Police Service to increase their coverage of the hospital.

And speaking in Iten when he launched Sh1 billion medical equipment yesterday, Health Permanent Secretary Julius Korir said the ministry had embarked on a security overhaul in hospitals and that would see NYS and working closely with county governments.

“We have instructed hospital managements to install CCTV cameras in all corridors and hallways to ensure criminal acts are prevented. The NYS deployed at KNH will  complement the security organs at the hospital,” said the PS.

At the same time, top Kenyatta hospital managers have been questioned over the rape claims.

Those questioned by police include the chief security officer.

Other top managers at the hospital were also questioned on Sunday and yesterday.

A team of detectives handling the probe had also booked an appointment with Koros for questioning regarding the issue.

The security officials told the team investigating the matter no complaint had been lodged with them over the claims.

The team is also said to have sought opinion from a number station commanders and officers handling the matter now want victims to volunteer information to enable them move the cases forward.

Allegations of rape, attempted rape and sexual harassment first came to the fore on social media last Thursday where scores of mothers recounted harrowing tales of how they were accosted along dimly lit stairs and elevators with most victims pointing a finger at morgue attendants moving bodies at night.

Denied allegations

But Ms Koros has denied the allegations, saying mortuary attendants use service lifts, which are separate from lifts used by patients and clients.

“For the mortuary attendants, I want to say that like any other employee of this hospital, every individual is vetted. Before you’re employed, you actually have to come with a certificate of good conduct,” said Koros on Friday.

Some of the new mothers told a group of women parliamentarians how lax security measures and loopholes at the institution and the floor structure at the maternity ward had combined to create fertile ground for sexual predators. [Additional reporting by Fred Kibor]

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