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Stalled Nakuru trauma centre hurts accident victims

By Mercy Kahenda | Sep 10th 2019 | 4 min read

The stalled trauma centre at the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital in Nakuru. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

On the morning of January 31, 2009, an oil tanker burst into flames along the Nakuru-Eldoret highway at Sachangwan, and killed more than 130 people.

Two years later, former President Mwai Kibaki announced a plan to improve the treatment of critically injured road accident victims along the notorious highway.

He went ahead and commissioned a Sh90 million trauma centre that was aimed at easing the pain of crash victims.

Today, mystery surrounds the completion of the one-storey facility that was initially supposed to be built at Salgaa but ended up being constructed at the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital.

Incomplete building

The incomplete building situated opposite the hospital mortuary has been fenced-off with iron sheets, but it sticks out like a sore thumb. Construction materials, including sand and concrete blocks, are strewn across its compound, which is choking in weeds.

Although the structure has a roof and walls, there are no windows, doors or other fittings. The project has been abandoned, with no sign that construction will resume any time soon.

Health Executive Kariuki Gichuki said the county does not have plans to complete the facility because it was not officially handed over by the defunct Transition Authority.

“The trauma centre is not our project. It is a national government project. The county cannot complete its construction midway,” said Dr Gichuki.

He, however, noted that if the national government paid the contractor what is owed, the county would complete the structure.

Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital in-charge Joseph Mburu also told The Standard that the project was not handed over to the hospital management by the Transition Authority.

“I am not seeing any progress in construction of the trauma centre. Unfortunately, it remains under the national government, which makes it difficult for the hospital to give support,” he said.

Dr Mburu added that the project was set up under the defunct Ministry of Special Programmes to serve accident victims along a dangerous stretch of road on the northern corridor.

The centre was to be equipped with high dependency and intensive care units, among other amenities, and was to be completed with 12 months according to hospital documentation.

Viable project

Mburu said he did not have any information on when works would resume.

“It was a viable project that would have assisted patients with trauma, among other emergencies.”

In November last year, the doctor wrote a letter to the Ministry of Health requesting the hospital to be allowed to complete construction and repossess the centre, which would complement the county’s universal healthcare programme.

Mburu said he did not get a reply from the ministry.

“The hospital cannot complete construction of the centre or issue the tender to anyone because the project remains under the Department of Special Programmes that was dissolved with devolution.

“I do not know if it is the Health ministry to give the way forward or if it will remain stalled.”

The doctor said patients had no alternative but to seek treatment at the provincial hospital’s casualty centre. The hospital is a designated Level Five facility.

“There are cases of burns, accidents and fire injuries reported at the hospital that would be better handled at the trauma centre. It would be prudent to own the centre, or be given the go-ahead to complete its construction because it would be of great use,” said Mburu.

Mark Maina is a victim of the Sachangwan fire who could have greatly benefited from specialised care the centre would have offered.

The 45-year-old father of four was burnt on his legs, thighs and buttocks, and is still traumatised by the incident.

Ten years later, Maina is forced to wear leggings and a pair of socks to keep warm because the cold weather causes him pain and the wounds become itchy.

The leggings press tightly against bandages that prevent his injuries from bleeding.

“My life has never been the same,” he said.

Maina said he spends about Sh3,000 each month on hospital visits, adding that he was expected to undergo surgery to repair his scarred knees but could not afford to pay for the operation.

Trained medics

Mark Lutomia, an orthopedic surgeon, said there were many instances where accident victims could have been saved if they received prompt care from trained medics.

“There are many people who die after being involved in road accidents, while the condition of some worsens for lack of experts to attend to them. This is why it is advisable to set up a centre to handle accident victims,” Dr Lutomia said.

The Standard visited a six-acre parcel of land in Salgaa bought with mony from the Constituency Development Fund where the trauma centre was to be established, and found livestock grazing on the property.

Residents who were not aware that the centre had been moved to Nakuru wondered when the project would kick-off.

Joshua Cheruiyot, a former ward representative, said the Government should speed up completion of facility to save the lives of accident victims.

“Leaders should explain to locals why the trauma centre has not been constructed. My observation is that the money might have been misappropriated,” said Mr Cheruiyot.

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