Lamu health services struggle under heavy patient demands

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022 09:30 | By
The King Fahad Hospital in Lamu County. Photo/PD/REUBEN MWAMBINGU

In his typical jolly state, six-year-old Destiny Njoga goes about his child play unaware of his father, he is not only a son but also the only fountain of hope and healing following the tragic death of his mother, hours after he was born towards the end of 2015.

His father, Solomon Mwangi, recalls how moments of elation for his bundle of joy would be ruthlessly devoured by the death of his wife Mary Ijara, who died as she was being rushed from Mpeketoni in Lamu County to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Mombasa about 300km away.

“It was on November 7, 2015 when my wife delivered a baby boy through Caesarean Section. I was very happy to see the baby.

It was at around 5.37pm. My wife was still at the theater but I was informed by one of the nurses that she will be okay in 45 minutes to an hour.

I decided to go home and prepare supper for her and returned at around 7.45 pm. She still had not woken up.

On enquiring about her condition, I was told that it had worsened and she needed to be in ICU.

A nurse further told me that the situation was dire since Mpeketoni Hospital had no ambulance and no oxygen to support her.

To cap it all, there was no aircraft to fly her to Mombasa,” Mwangi recalls.

According to Mwangi, at around 1.51am, the medics at the Mpeketoni facility concluded they had no option but to move the patient to an ICU in Mombasa.

The medics had earlier requested for an ambulance from Lamu Island but they were unlucky as it had rushed a patient to Malindi.

At around 2.00 am they started the journey to Mombasa in an ambulance but after a 12km drive from Mpeketoni, his wife succumbed and they had to return to Mpeketoni.

On September 21, 2021, celebrated Lamu-based photojournalist Abdalla Barghash, collapsed while at the Lamu House hotel and he was taken to King Fahad Hospital in Lamu Island where he was admitted at around 5pm.

Further examination would reveal that he had suffered a mild stroke and required urgent medical care. Bargash died six days later.

Right medication

Umra Omar, the founder of Safari Doctors, an organisation that delivers primary medical care and health education by boat, air, and land to communities in Lamu believes the late Bargash life could have been saved if he was given the right medication on time.

“He went to the hospital at about 5pm and stayed there for the whole night without any medical care until the following day when a scan was done, we took her to Bomu hospital where he stayed for about a week.

The situation could have been mitigated by doing a scan at the right time to identify where the problem was.

If it’s a clot he should have been given the right medication. If it’s a referral then he should have been referred immediately at that time,” regrets Umra saying the healthcare situation in Lamu is only getting worse.

She says: “Hospitals are getting understaffed; delivery of medicine is treated as a celebration as opposed to a right.

Physically the facility is fantastic but service delivery is poor. You will find that patients from Mpeketoni are being referred to King Fahd in Lamu Island and later to Mombasa which is hundreds of kilometres away.”

Umra says only last week, she handled a referral case for a teenager who had a motorbike accident at Mokowe on the mainland and lost her mother.

The teenager was referred to Jocham and then to Bomu hospital where he is recuperating.

A recent medical camp sponsored by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) at Hindi Primary School in the mainland established that cases of injuries from road accidents are on the increase in Lamu county in a trend attributed to recent infrastructure development complementing the new Lamu Port.

Dr Mohammed Kombo, a general practitioner in charge of health administration at King Fahd County Referral Hospital, says accidents have now surpassed the cases of attacks by animals which have in the past been the most prevalent due to widespread human-wildlife conflict in the region.

Lamu Health Executive Anne Gathoni admits that currently Lamu has no functioning ICU and often they are forced to make referrals for specialised healthcare services.

She is however quick to add that the county is in the process of setting up a standardised ICU “which will be launched soon.”

She says important ICU equipment such as ventilator machines and ICU beds are available.

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