Pain of patients left on their own as doctors stand their ground

A deserted ward at Kapsabet County Referral Hospital. [Edward Kosut, Standard]

For three weeks, Walter Obenji has remained bedridden at the Kapsabet County Referral Hospital in Nandi with the hope of getting treatment.

But as days pass, he is losing hope. He is lonely in a deserted ward following the ongoing doctors’ strike that has paralyzed operations at the county’s largest health facility.

“I cannot walk and I need to be pushed on a wheelchair. I have not relieved myself and no one has come to help me,” says Obenji.

He is among thousands of patients across the country that are barely struggling to see the next day.

The public facilities are offering minimum services while the crucial ones performed by doctors have been suspended.

Obenji was involved in a motorbike accident and sustained injuries in the head and fractures on his right leg.

He was supposed to undergo surgery, but the industrial action by medics has seen his case abandoned.

“Some nurses dressed in blue uniforms dress the wounds and administer painkillers to me on a daily basis and that is what has been sustaining me. I was told the doctor who is supposed to operate on me is on strike and I have to wait until he resumes,” he said.

His bills for food and bed continues to accumulate as he waits.

For the past two weeks, inpatients who at the hospital have significantly decreased. Some were discharged while others were transferred to private hospitals in Kapsabet and Eldoret.

By Tuesday, there were only 18 inpatients in both male and female wards. The facility has a bed capacity of over 250.

Three male patients on oxygen have only been left in the hands of caregivers. 

“I cannot risk staying away and I have to fix an oxygen mask when needed,” said Gilbert Kipyego, who is taking care of his younger brother.

Those seeking emergency treatment, especially accident victims, are being advised to seek services elsewhere after getting first aid from nurses. Ambrose Korir claims some of the nurses directed him to see a doctor in one of the private chemists in Kapsabet town.

“I am diabetic and I wanted to see my doctor after unsuccessfully reaching him on the phone. My sugar level went up this morning and I needed another prescription of drugs from the doctor. I cannot afford to buy and administer it in the chemists,” he said.

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang denied the claims he has failed to implement a Collective Bargain Agreement with clinical officers.

“The clinical officers have vowed to stand in solidarity with doctors, which have paralyzed health services in the county. It is completely unfair for health workers to subject people of Nandi to suffering yet we have done our part as a county,” he said.

In Trans Nzoia, Bridgit Nafula’s seven-year-old child with fever was forced to seek private care. “I have no money for a private hospital, and they don’t accept my National Health Insurance Fund card for outpatient,” she said.

Governor George Natembeya acknowledged the doctors’ right to good welfare, but expressed concern on the suffering caused by the strike.

“There is need to review policies that lead to constant strikes due to government’s failure to implement Collective Bargaining Agreements,” Natembeya said in an interview in a local radio station.

He emphasized that doctors deserve better pay and respect for their dedication. “They are not being unreasonable. It is time their commitment is valued,” he said.

“The strike has crippled operations countrywide. Clinical officers, nurses, lab technicians... everyone has joined the cause.”

In Laikipia and Nyandarua county hospitals, normalcy has resumed after the doctors agreed to resume work awaiting the ruling of a court case.

“We had a meeting with them last week and they all agreed to report back to work. This is as they await the court ruling which will determine their case,” said Nyahururu County Referral Hospital head, Peter Kiptoo.

Governor Kiarie Badilisha of Nyandarua held a meeting with the striking medics a week ago.

“We are awaiting the courts ruling. We had a mutual agreement with them and they are at work,” said his Director of Communications.

In Nyanza, most public facilities have suspended critical services. But in Migori, Health CEC Julius Nyerere claimed the situation was normal. “Emergency services are being covered,” he said.

[Reports by Edward Kosut, James Munyeki, Martin Ndiema and Anne Atieno]

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