A 16-year-old girl who travelled for 14 hours from Wajir to seek treatment for serious burns was turned away at the Kenyatta National Hospital.
Haretha Yusuf’s relatives were told she could not be admitted because the Wajir Referral Hospital did not follow procedure.
The minor had initially been taken to a hospital in Khorof Harar. “They do not have much at the hospital in my village, so they asked us to go to Wajir Referral Hospital, which is about 45 kilometres away,” said Yusuf Adan, the girl’s father.
Medics in Wajir said she had suffered 50 per cent burns and needed urgent medical assistance at KNH. “We had no money and did not know how we would get there. The hospital asked us to fuel the ambulance for the trip to Nairobi and back. I sought the help of well-wishers,” said Mr Adan.
With a referral letter dated April 4, they set off for Nairobi. The journey saw Haretha’s wounds worsen because of heat. “The wounds started festering, her skin was peeling off by the time we arrived at the hospital. Our journey was not easy, but we held on to hope that she would finally be treated,” said Adan.
But at KNH, their hopes were dashed when they ran into bureaucracy. “We spoke to anyone we could for more than three hours while she lay in the ambulance,” said Adan.
Desperate, and with the girl in agony, they decided to go to Al Amin Hospital in Eastleigh. “I thought she was going to die but the ambulance crew said they could find us a hospital,” said Adan.
KNH Corporate Affairs Manager Simon Ithai and Acting Director of Clinical Services Peter Masinde said the girl could not be admitted.
“The hospital did not have a vacant ICU bed. Contrary to the referral guideline requirements, the referring hospital had not contacted KNH,” he said.
Dr Masinde said there were no free beds in the burns unit and advised the family to have the girl admitted to the private wing while waiting for a bed in the ICU.
Mr Ithai said Haretha could not be admitted in the general ward because of the seriousness of her wounds and advised her family to keep checking with KNH.
According to Adan, Haretha suffered the burns in their house in Wajir. He said Haretha had been reading in their house using a kerosene lamp and might have fallen asleep before the lamp fell and set the house on fire.
Her mother and other siblings were said to have been away in Garissa at the time of the incident, while he was out at work.
Adan said the hospital bill at Al Amin Hospital was growing rapidly.
“We have a bill of more than Sh500,000. I do not have the money. I do not know if they will let me seek treatment in another hospital,” said the father of nine who works as a security guard in Wajir.