The county government of Machakos yesterday temporarily sealed off Shalom Hospital in Athi River following reported deaths due to coronavirus.
Governor Alfred Mutua said the decision to close the facility was made after intense consultation with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) and the county director of health.
“My government has decided to close down the hospital in Athi River following deaths of some patients due to Covid-19. Other inpatients also tested positive, likely having been infected while in the hospital,” Mutua said yesterday.
He said a health worker from the facility has also tested positive and the hospital was now a quarantine facility.
“I am therefore urging all wananchi to keep off the hospital. No one is allowed to get in or leave the hospital. The process of screening and testing for Covid-19 may take several days and has already started,” said the governor.
He said further decisions will be undertaken according to the evaluation of the relevant agencies involved in the provision of health care and combating of Covid-19.
In a quick rejoinder, the hospital management through a press statement signed by Hellen Omali, explained that in the the last few days they have witnessed an increase in patients suspected of suffering from Covid-19, mainly from the metropolitan areas, which has ultimately led to the death of three.
“A total of eight suspected patients have been seen at our facility. After testing, six returned positive results. A total of 19 staff members have been tested and one has unfortunately tested positive. All the suspected cases were treated within the isolation ward and had no contact with the rest of the patients,” read the statement.
The hospital, the statement explained, had no ICU facilities and had to refer critical cases to public hospitals.
“Since the hospital does not have an ICU section we have been referring critical cases to the Machakos General Hospital, but unfortunately there has been a challenge with such referrals owing to constrained ICU facilities countrywide. This situation has regrettably resulted in three fatalities while the referral cases were being processed,” read the statement.
“The hospital has resorted to testing all staff and patients. Some patients developed symptoms while in the general ward and were isolated immediately,” Dr Omali said.
Most residents of Athi River, Mlolongo and Kitengela take their sick to the facility and the news of the Covid-19 infections has sent shivers in the surrounding estates.
A spot check revealed that no patients were being received at the facility as a contingent of armed police officers, including the county government askaris, had sealed off the hospital.
Friends and relatives who had gone to the mortuary to collect bodies of their loved ones for burial were turned back and had to change their funeral plans.
“We have been here since morning; we came to collect my father’s body for burial in Kitui. We don’t have access to the mortuary,” said Josephine Mumbua.
According to Evan Njenga, the chair of KMPDB, three patients had died between June 11 and 26. Yesterday, the hospital had three Covid-19 positive cases including an employee, who is a laboratory technologist.
In an interview with The Standard on Sunday, Dr Njenga said the hospital had 180 patients with 25 staff who needed to be tested for Covid-19.
“We have realised that the hospital has only one clinical officer and 15 nurses, who are attending to all patients. This facility has no HDU as renovation work is ongoing and that’s why we have not been able to approve the facility as an isolation centre,” said Njenga.
The facility has poor ventilation while the beds have less than one metre spacing between them. This means they have not met the requirement for social distancing recommended by the Ministry of Health.
“We are calling on all the county governments to support private facilities that can be isolation and quarantine centres so that together they help the fight against Covid-19,” said Njenga.
The chairman said the facility has only been temporally closed and the board will decide on the way forward on Monday