Badi to extend window for Kenyatta National Hospital walk-in patients
George Kebaso and Alvin Mwangi
It is a race against time for the government to have 24 health facilities in Nairobi ready for thousands of patients that throng Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) for common treatment.
The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) had set July 1 as the date when the hospital is scheduled to close its doors to walk-in patients.
But it is emerging that most of the health facilities - where such patients are supposed to be treated – are yet to be ready.
When NMS announced on May 12 that the country’s main referral hospital won’t be attending to walk-in patients, Director General Mohamed Badi explained that the long-term plan was to ease patient traffic and free space only for referrals, emergency and critical care cases.
“All patients outside this category will be turned away unless they have letters from other facilities,” he said.
When People Daily visited the hospital yesterday, there were long queues of patients waiting to be attended.
However, a source close to KNH management said with most of the county health facilities yet to be at the level they can accommodate the huge numbers of patients who will go there, the hospital will extend the deadline.
“Indeed this hospital is meant to handle only referred patients, emergency cases and those in need of critical care, but since the designated health facilities are yet to be ready, the hospital will tolerate walk-in patients for a little longer,” the source said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to make a pronouncement on the progress of upgrading some 24 health facilities, and the ongoing programme to decongest KNH.
According to NMS, the plan was largely dependent on the completion of the 24 new level two and three facilities and two referral hospitals that are being put up.
However, it has emerged that the completion and opening of the hospitals, as had been planned, is facing delays.
This could see the closure to walk-in patients to KNH extended. This was confirmed by Badi, who said that the date to stop walk-in patients could be pushed forward to give them more time to prepare.
“Yes we had announced that but Kenyans should understand the date was not a cast on stone. We are still deliberating with the relevant agencies on the issue,” he said.
The NMS boss said they were working to ensure the new centres, as well as two level five hospitals are in place before KNH closes its door to the public.
NMS Director of Health Dr Ouma Oluga said they have already equipped Mama Lucy Hospital with 43 specialists who attend to most of the critical work that can be handled at KNH.
“Here at Mama Lucy we only refer cases to do with dialysis, radiology and cancer treatment, which are critical,” he said.
At the same time, Dr Oluga said Mama Lucy will be upgraded from a level four to level five hospital. The upgrade will see the number of beds increased from the current 112 to 120.
The facility will also have an 18-bed Intensive Care Unit. “So far, our referral rate to KNH stands at 34 percent but we intend to have this rate reduced to one percent once this facility has been upgraded,” he said.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that KNH handles over 1, 000 outpatient cases that can be handled by small facilities across the country.
Out of the 24 facilities that will be open, four have already been opened and over 16,000 patients attended to.
The health facilities – both level two and three – that have been completed include hospitals in Uthiru, Kiamaiko, Ushirika and Soweto-Kayole.
10 out of the 24 new facilities are level 2 hospitals while the rest are level three facilities.
Last December, President Uhuru said the Sh2 billion project aimed at increasing Nairobi’s bed capacity in the informal settlement by 280 beds will be ready by the start of February.
The project includes rehabilitation of five health facilities across the city at a cost of Sh300 million as well as construction of 19 new hospitals at an average cost of Sh70 million each.
Badi said the new facilities have ensured that patients who seek outpatient services at KNH has reduced by about 47 percent as the new ones are easily accessible, affordable and offer quality health care services.
“A total of 47 percent of walk-in patients at KNH are drawn from Nairobi and by creating accessible, affordable and quality healthcare services in informal settlements through these new hospitals, we intend to reduce the number significantly,” he said.
Badi said they have also recovered several ambulances in a bid to improve health care in the capital.
“We have recovered 12 ambulances from the county workshop that are now serving Kenyans. Our plan is to decongest KNH, Mbagathi and Mama Lucy,” he added.