Inside the renal unit at Murang'a County Referral Hospital are two patients awaiting to undergo dialysis. Two more are in session and in just an hour the rest will enter.
Peter Kamau, a renal patient from Kanjama village is among the two here for their first session.
For three years he was forced to wake up at 3am to make it to the Kenya National Hospital (KNH) for treatment. Now it takes him only 40 minutes and far less in fare.
“What a reprieve for me. I even sold a piece of land to cater for the trip's expenses,” he says.
Long queues, and sometimes failure by overloaded machines at KNH made treatment of his kidney disease difficult.
In the past, KNH, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) and Coast General Hospital had equipment to handle dialysis.
But one morning Kamau received great news as he boarded a vehicle from Kiria-ini market for his now familiar trip to Nairobi. “A passenger whom I told why I was going to Nairobi wondered why I was not seeking the same treatment at Murang’a; I was pleasantly surprised,” he says.
Though frail and exhausted after he had just undergone a dialysis procedure that took three hours, Kamau expresses his relief to the Saturday Standard that caught up with him at the Murang'a County Referral Hospital earlier this week.
At Kajiado County Referral Hospital, Ishmael Mariam, a businesswoman from Nairobi is undergoing dialysis at a newly established renal unit.
Prior to transfering to Kajiado hospital for the sessions, she had suffered the long waits at KNH, where the machine would sometimes fail owing to overuse.
“I decided to try Kajiado because of its proximity to Nairobi; I have been visiting here for eight months now,” Mariam says.
Mariam has endured kidney failure for six years. Just like Kamau, there are occasions he missed sessions due to long queues.
“Imagine you are ailing and weak but have to wait a day or two on a bench to be treated. It is painful and exhausting,” he says.
According to Kajiado Deputy Medical Supritendent Maria Kindi, patients are required to do two dialysis sessions per week but there are cases where some go for 10 sessions in a month. “Some patients come from Nairobi for dialysis,” Dr Kindi said.
Mariam and Kamau are among hundreds of patients across the country who no longer have to line up at KNH for dialysis.
The businesswoman says she is lucky the dialysis machine was brought to the hospital and through it they can get continuous care.
“A number of friends have died because they missed sessions because of congestion at KNH,” she says.
In 2015, the ministry of Health leased Sh38 billion medical equipment to 94 county hospitals among them dialysis machines, CT scan and MRI units.
Under the Managed Equipment Services (MES) programme, others equipment were mammogram, radiology machine and X-ray machine.
Health Principal Secretary Peter Tum says the MES programme has transformed medical care in the country.
“Across the country from Mandera to Busia, Kenyans can now access specialised treatment at only a few kilometres away from their homes,” says Tum.
He too acknowledges that before the equipment was availed hundreds of Kenyans were forced to travel to either Nairobi or Eldoret.
“Family savings were depleted, others sold land and property to have their kin treated, but this is no loner the case,” says Tum.
At KNH and MTRH, the number of those seeking treatment has significantly reduced.
“Unless it is at a critical condition when we get new renal patients at KNH we put them on dialysis and then send them to counties. The machines at the counties have significantly cut down on death of kidney disease patients,” says Head of Renal Unit Dr John Ngigi.
Murang’a County Health and Sanitation Joseph Mbai said there are plans to expand the renal unit to accommodate more patients.
“On Tuesday, another dialysis machine will be delivered at Murang’a District Hospital as part of providing effective services to locals,” said Mbai.