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Death of seven newborn babies put Baringo hospital on the spot

COUNTIES
By Yvonne Chepkwony | March 9th 2021

A section of Baringo County Hospital in Kabarnet town. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

 
 Controversy surrounds the death of seven newborn babies at the Baringo County Hospital after the temperature of an incubator they were in was allegedly set too high.
 
The hospital nursery is said to have been under the watch of interns.
 
The management of the hospital denied the claims, saying the facility has no records that the nursery was under interns.
 
It dismissed the reports as false saying they are meant to make the healthcare institution look bad.
 
Not aware
 
Baringo Health executive Mary Panga said she was not aware of any infant who had died under such circumstances and refused to be drawn into the conversation about the deaths or shortage of medical staff in the county.
 
“Those are allegations and there is nothing like that,” Ms Panga said in a telephone interview and then ended the call.
 
However, interviews with sources at the hospital, staff and relatives whose kin lost their babies, revealed that five deaths were reported on Saturday while two more happened on Monday.
 
Four of the women who lost their children were discharged after signing some forms on Monday while one who lost twins was still at the hospital yesterday.
 
Workers at the hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Standard that when the incident happened, interns from a medical institute were taking care of expectant mothers and their babies due to the staff shortage.
 
A woman who delivered last Thursday said she was there when the babies died in the incubator. “Things are getting worse each day. What I witnessed since I was admitted there on Thursday is devastating.
 
"I have witnessed mothers crying after they lost their babies while in incubators,” said the mother who spoke to this writer in the ward yesterday.
 
A man who had visited his sister-in-law at the hospital after she gave birth to twins was still in shock on learning of the death of the infants.
 
He blamed the hospital for the deaths, saying no one was willing to explain to the family what led to the death of the twins.
 
“We are still seeking answers. The hospital has asked us to take the bodies if we wish to do so but I need to consult other members of the family,” he said.
 
The affected mothers are in a dilemma whether to leave the bodies of their pre-term babies to the hospital to inter or take them and bury them in their rural homes or nearby cemeteries.
 
This writer managed to gain access to the hospital but could not take pictures because the guards had instructions not to allow photographers in the maternity ward.
 
Visitors to the maternity ward were being thoroughly frisked before being allowed in.
 
A man who had come to visit his wife claimed he saw a woman who had lost a baby complain to the nurses.
 
“She was wailing, demanding answers on how her child died in an incubator. It appears she did not know what led to the death of her baby,” he said yesterday.
 
Most of those interviewed said the women were from different areas of the county.
 
Efforts to get more information from the hospital records were not fruitful because the management had removed all the records of births and deaths from the maternity ward.
 
Baringo County has been experiencing an acute shortage of doctors and nurses. This situation has adversely affected service delivery.
 
Last week, a routine admission of patients to two wards at Eldama Ravine sub-County Hospital was suspended due to shortage of staff.
 
Internal memo
 
The facility's Medical Superintendent Vincent Yator, in an internal memo, said the decision to suspend admission was made since there was an acute shortage of medical staff.
 
But the memo has landed him in trouble with the administration and he has been by Dr John Marachi.
 
David Cherop, the County Chief Officer in charge of health services wrote to Yator directing him to handover to Dr Marachi who was in charge of another facility in Mogotio sub-County. Yator was ordered to report to Mogotio with immediate effect.
 
For years, the county has been struggling with a shortage of medical staff. A 2020 community scorecard on the status of health centres in the county revealed that locals in the region are not guaranteed health services due to a lack of medical staff.
 
The report was compiled by Centre for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance.
[Additional report by Julius Chepkwony]
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