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Doctor recounts harrowing day he watched his son slip away


Winston Ongalo and his wife Maline Luhombo during the interview with The Standard. (Photo: Duncan Ocholla, Standard)

As a medical doctor, Winston Ongalo never imagined the ongoing nurses' strike would hurt him the same way it had  ordinary Kenyans.

But day three of the strike would hit Dr Ongalo hard when his eight-month-old son succumbed to malaria.

Ongalo believes little Sahim Ongalo's life could have been saved if the nurses were on duty.

Ongalo watched helplessly as his son died at Kakamega County Referral Hospital, where he works as the Senior Medical Officer in charge of outpatient services.

"What my son needed was nursing. He was in the casualty department where he was to be put on oxygen. I went to the casualty section and found two doctors who were unable to help me since there were no keys to the supplies store," he recalled.

He took the child to the emergency area with the hope of getting help.

Keys to stores

"When they (nurses) went on strike, they took all the keys to the stores where drugs, oxygen and gloves are kept, and went with them," he explained.

"Oxygen was there but nurses had confiscated the keys and locked all the doors where emergency drugs are kept when they went on strike," he said.

For about 30 minutes and with the help of his colleagues, they tried all they could but were unable to save the baby's life.

"My child was unable to breathe and developed congestive cardiac failure leading to acute anaemia. This resulted in pulmonary oedema (fluids accumulating in the lungs), since the heart was failing to function for not receiving enough blood," he explained.

"You treat people and the Government gets revenue. We pay heavy taxes but we are not properly remunerated. I can't tell nurses to go back to work when their grievances have not been addressed. It would be hypocrisy on my part as I am also a medic," he said

In an exclusive interview with The Standard at his home in Kakamega town, Ongalo recalled that his son developed fever on Tuesday evening.

The condition of the child deteriorated in the morning on Wednesday with the whole body turning pale.

"As a medic I realised that my child urgently needed medication and my wife rushed him to Nala hospital, which is near our house. He was pale and I knew the condition had developed to severe anaemia and he needed blood transfusion," said Ongalo.

Doctors at Nala hospital advised them to take the child to Kakamega General hospital or Mukumu hospital since they did not have oxygen.

However, Ongalo absolved the nurses from blame, saying they were being frustrated by the Government.

Ongalo asked governors, the Government and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to expedite the matter and have the CBA signed. 

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