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Covid-19: Race against time as rich Kenyans install ICU beds in homes

By Eric Wainaina
Friday, July 10th, 2020
Hospitals are running out of space in Intensive Care Units due to the Covid-19 pandemic that is spreading fast across the country. PD/COURTESY
In summary
    • Wealthy Kenyans, among them five governors, have installed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facilities in their private residences following a surge in Covid-19 infections which has seen leading private hospitals overwhelmed.

Five governors, prominent businessman-cum politician among those who have placed facilities at their private residences.

Wealthy Kenyans, among them five governors, have installed Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facilities in their private residences following a surge in Covid-19 infections which has seen leading private hospitals overwhelmed.

Sources told People Daily that five governors and a prominent businessman cum politician from the North Rift are among those who have installed the state-of-the-art ICU facilities at their private residences. The governors, who we cannot named because we could not reach them for their side of the story, include two from the Coast region, another two from the Nyanza region and one from upper Eastern Kenya.

One of the governors has a pre-existing medical condition while two others head counties which were severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic in April and May, which could explain why they rushed to install the machines, at a huge cost.

An employee at a private firm that was contracted by the governors and the businessman to source and install the ICU facilities revealed that they supplied medical gas systems, oxygen cylinders, dry air, ventilators and patient monitors, with each costing upwards of Sh10 million.

The governors and businessman have also enlisted the services of private doctors and nurses who are on stand-by in case any of them or their relatives contract the disease.

“A number of high profile people have been in a rush to install ICU beds in their homes, complete with all the required equipment. Some of the people we have supplied (the ICU equipment) to and oversaw the installation of the facilities at their homes include five governors who have also made arrangements for standby private doctors and nurses which is a prerequisite,” said our source who sought anonymity because he is not allowed to disclose the company’s business dealings.

The firm, which has also supplied the equipment to four counties, according to the source, has been importing the equipment from Italy and China.

Contacted, Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga even though denying any knowledge of some of his colleagues installing the facilities at their private residences, refused to rule out such a possibility.

According to him, there could be a possibility that those who could afford the facilities could install them as a precautionary measure, including in his county, which has an oxygen manufacturing plant. “People putting up private ICU could be a possibility due to the overstretching in the hospitals but as a county (Siaya) we are working on 66 ICU beds which will be complete in two weeks. And it is not a must that one puts up an ICU facility, one can put up a related system because what is most important is oxygen,” said Rasanga.

His Samburu counterpart Moses Lenolkulal, however, said he was not aware of any county boss who has installed ICU beds in his private residence.

Instead, he said that his county is in the process of ensuring that ICU beds are installed in most of the hospitals to take care of any surge in numbers. “I have not heard of any person or governor who wants to install an ICU bed in their home, this is not even possible,” he said.

“As a county in terms of our preparedness what I can tell you is that we are hop ing to get ICU beds, at the moment we are in the process of acquiring them,” he added. The revelations that some county bosses were installing private ICU facilities in their homes are likely to cause an uproar across the country given that majority of governors have been on the spot for failing to improve the state of health facilities in their counties.

Currently, most governors are racing against time to ensure that they attain the 300-bed capacity in isolation facilities within their counties. As at Wednesday, 26 counties had beaten the July 7 deadline issued by President Kenyatta a month ago while the remaining 21 were struggling to meet the target.

Health sector

Yesterday, Dr Simon Gikondu, the Secretary General of the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) Covid-19 response committee while saying he was unaware of the revelations could not rule out such possibility given the current crisis in the health sector occasioned by the surging number of Covid-19 infections.

This, Dr Gikondu, said could have been motivated by the lack of capacity in public hospitals, the huge number of patients rushing to private hospitals as well as the ban on international flights which has limited access to hospitals abroad.

“This could be as a result of failure of the same people who are making private health arrangements for themselves and their families, to ensure we have ICU facilities in public hospitals, lack of capacity in the human resources which we have been fighting for. Now that the private facilities they rely on are full to capacity and there are limitations in foreign travel, they are thinking about themselves,” Dr Gikondu said.

Already, the country is staring at a crisis in the treatment of patients with severe cases of Covid-19 due to the shortage of ICU beds in both public and private hospitals. Although the Ministry of Health remained mum on the issue, sources have indicated that all the hospitals in Nairobi, both public and private have run out of hospital beds.

HOSPITAL BEDS

• Most of the facilities are being forced to either turn away patients seeking admissions in the ICU facilities or admit them to the High Dependency Units .

• KNH’s head of Infectious Diseases Unit Dr Loise Ombajo told a local TV station that ICU beds at the facility were fully occupied.

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