MPs report: Our health system is a danger to patients

Millions of Kenyans could be walking into the country's referral hospitals unaware that that the health facilities designed to keep them alive could be death traps.

A report of the National Assembly Health committee paints a damning picture of the country's health system, which though designed to cure, is plagued by myriad of pitfalls, placing patients' lives at risk.

At Kenyatta National hospital, the region’s largest referral hospital, a patient in theatre could end up on a malfunctioning machine, a person nursing a back injury could end up with more broken bones, and if for a moment you developed breathing complications, chances are that you will end up dead.

Nurses, key cogs in the health sector are forced to leave nursing station to write patient bills, and have to constantly watch their backs due to insecurity from ‘unruly patients and their relatives.’

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On KNH facilities, the report says:

“The equipment for intrusive surgical procedures was not fit for use and the laser machine had a factory error. Beds in the wards were not proper as they could not prop up patients with certain injuries. The hospital lacked resuscitation equipment and they were not provided with ICT support to make their work easy and error free.”

“The hospital faces staffing shortfall of near crisis proportions. A current shortfall of 1,456 staff has seen service greatly compromised,” states the report tabled in the National Assembly yesterday.

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At Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital, patients jostle for space at the facility, which ‘does not meet international standards, according to the report.

“The maximum security unit of the hospital where patients referred from the police and the Judiciary are accommodated, is overcrowded and is faced with security challenges…the hospital has acute shortage of staff in all cadres,” noted the committee chaired by Sabina Chege (Murang'a).

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The House team also inspected Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), the National Spinal Injury Hospital and the Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Shock findings

In all these institutions, the committee made shocking findings tallying with widely held perceptions that the country's public health system is in a state of decline and needs urgent recovery measures.

There have been report of needless deaths in some of the country’s health facilities, blamed on negligence and lack of adequate facilities.

At the spinal injury hospital, the committee discovered that 40 per cent of patients die or develop more complications two years after being discharged. 

“Those who manage to make it to the hospital and later discharged face poor follow-up with high morbidity and mortality. A cross-cutting study (unpublished) showed 40 per cent mortality at two years post-discharge," noted the report.

At MTRH, the committee found that the hospital is shouldering the burden of having to serve thousands of local and foreign patients who flock to the facility located in Eldoret.

Coming under focus is the National Hospital Insurance fund (NHIF), which the committee noted, paid more money to private hospitals abroad than to local public hospitals, for the same services procured.

Among the most affected group of patients are those battling cancer who have to wait in line for more than 60 days to access lifesaving procedures such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“The long wait was sometimes compounded by breakdown of machines and equipment,” the report noted. 

Among the recommendations made by the committee is takeover of Mathari hospital by Kenya Prisons as most of those referred are remandees facing charges in court.

It also calls for restructuring of top level management of Kenyatta hospital and hiring of more staff to deal with high number of patient. It also wants merit-based appointments to hospital management positions.

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National Assembly Health committeeKenya's Health SysytemKNHHealthcareMTRH