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Girl dies, hospital closed as medics' strike enters day 3

Health & Science

A 12-year-old girl died in Baringo County as the countrywide strike by nurses and clinicians over poor working conditions continues.

Zainabu Bashir said her granddaughter died yesterday while on the way to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret after they waited for hours to get treatment at Kabarnet Hospital in vain.

Bashir told The Standard the girl, who had a brain tumour, complained of a headache on Monday morning before she took her to hospital.

“We waited for five hours as the girl writhed in pain. It was only after I protested that one of the staff put her on a drip and told us to arrange for her to be taken to Eldoret for specialised treatment,” Bashir said.

Wards deserted

But County Executive Committee Member for Health Mary Panga said she was not aware of the death.

“Tumour is a chronic disease and it could not have killed the girl within the four hours that she was at the hospital,” Panga said.

She, however, admitted that the strike had paralysed services in facilities across the county.

Irene Tirioko was turned away at the facility yesterday despite having been booked for gynaecology review after she started experiencing acute abdominal pains for the past two weeks.

Her husband Richard Tirioko said she also has a kidney problem and has been experiencing urine retention for the past three days. “This is my second day at the hospital; I was hopeful that a doctor could attend to my wife. I do not have money to go to a private facility,” he said.

Rueben Mosol, who was diagnosed with tetanus three weeks ago had an open wound that needed dressing, but there was no one to attend to him.

Clinical officers' representative Philip Yator said even though doctors are not on strike, they cannot work without the support of clinical officers and nurses.

 Patients stranded at the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital (PGH), Nakuru. [Joseph Kipsang, Standard]

Worried about condition

“We are calling on the public to take their patients to private hospitals because nobody will attend to them in public facilities where services have been paralysed,” said Yator.

Stephen Njoroge, from Kianjaro village in Elementaita, was turned away from the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital in Nakuru.

Njoroge, 18, was scheduled for orthopaedic surgery at the level five hospital on Monday after he was involved in an accident on December 6.

“I have been buying painkillers for my son, but I am worried about his condition as he cannot walk. Staying for long without being attended to may leave him paralysed,” said the teenager’s mother, Mary Waithera. 

In Uasin Gishu, patients were turned away at the gate of the county hospital and advised to seek treatment in private hospitals or at MTRH. Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Uasin Gishu branch secretary Beatrice Kariuki maintained that the strike will continue until their grievances are addressed.

“We have been disowned by our government. We are given a pair of PPE for three to four days. Some medics do not even have surgical masks,” said Kariuki.

Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco) Uasin Gishu branch secretary David Chirchir decried inequity in award of allowances to medics, saying a health service commission will help address the challenge.

“Some medics have allowances while others do not. A health service commission is what we are asking for. The commission will take care of our promotions, allowances, discipline, training and employment,” he said.

And the Bungoma County Referral Hospital has been closed indefinitely following the health workers' strike. 

In a memo, Bungoma Referral Medical Superintendent David Wanikina advised patients to seek medical care from other health facilities.

“This is to inform you that due to ongoing nurses and clinical officers industrial action that began on December 7, the facility has suspended its operations. Relatives of patients at the inpatient department should organise to relocate their people to other hospitals,” reads the memo in part. 

Paul Wanyama, whose wife was to undergo C-section surgery yesterday, said she was discharged before the procedure.

KNUN Secretary General Seth Panyako said at least 23,000 nurses have downed tools and will only resume duty after their demands are met.

At Kakamega County General Hospital, patients in critical state were being attended to by nurses and clinicians working on contract.

In Kisumu, the County Health Chief Officer Gregory Ganda notified the striking clinical officers that the department had not received the strike notice.

“Any clinical officer on strike is therefore doing so illegally as due process has not been fulfilled. Stand advised,” read the letter in part.

But Kuco Secretary General George Gibore said the county administration cannot claim to have not received the strike notice, which was served through the Council of Governors chairman and copied to all county secretaries who are the head of public service in the counties.

Nurses working on contract at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital said they were overwhelmed.

[Reports by Mercy Kahenda, Yvonne Chepkwony, Lynn Kolongei, Mica Sali and Mactilda Mbenywe]

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