Surge in Covid-19 tests overwhelm health authorities

Monday, July 13th, 2020 00:00 | By
A medic holds a vaccine. Photo/COURTESY

The government is overwhelmed by the huge numbers of Kenyans seeking to test for Covid-19 following last week’s presidential lifting of inter-county movement restrictions.

Government spokesman, Cyrus Oguna responding to an inquiry by People Daily on why Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) and Kenyatta National Hospital’s (KNH) Mbagathi Infectious Disease Unit  (IDU) were being closed to the public, he said the services can be done at KNH and Mbagathi main hospitals.

He explained that those other two facilities had become overwhelmed by virtue of their basic purposes; Kemri being a research institution while the IDU at Mbagathi, is an isolation centre.

“We cannot have all Kenyans being tested for Covid at these two institutions yet we have other testing sites that are open to people seeking such services. We have testing sites at both KNH and Mbagathi main hospitals where Kenyans can go. Mama Lucy is also being prepared to offer those services.

“However, for those Kenyans who are able they can go to the Lancet Laboratories,” Oguna said last evening as it emerged that KNH’s Mbagathi IDU will no longer be handling Covid-19 suspected cases but only confirmed ones.

Oguna said Kemri had reached such a decision of suspending Covid samples collection after it became clear that other research activities it is established for were suffering.

“Kemri is not a hospital but a research institution, so it was important to suspend Covid -19 samples collection to have it focus more on its mandate,” he added.

In an internal memo, Mbagathi IDU’s Directors and Head of Departments were also cautioned not to receive referrals from counties unless under special circumstances.

The memo dated July 9 was signed by the hospital’s Senior Director of Clinical Services, Dr Irene Inwani.

“The Head of Unit Respiratory Infections Diseases is directed to stop all the screening activities and public testing at the KNH Mbagathi IDU,” she said.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on July 7 said there will be no airlifting of patients from other counties to Nairobi.

“There will be no capacity to be brought to Nairobi for treatment as Nairobi itself will be already overwhelmed. Where we are heading is unpredictable,” Kagwe said.

The far-reaching directives that have been taken by the two key Covid-19 sample collection and testing institutions in a space of one week have left Kenyans concerned and at the hands of a merciless virus.

Already battered by the social and economic burden brought by the global pandemic, Kenyans who are struggling to put a meal on their tables are once again confronted by the fact that, a Covid test in order to get back to their places of work is not going to be cheap.

Last week,Kemri suspended the free Covid-19 sample collection, and directed that Kenyans who wish to do such tests to seek services at designated medical facilities.

Yesterday, it emerged that Kenyatta National Hospital’s (KNH) Mbagathi Infectious Disease Unit had taken a similar decision.

A State official who sought anonymity last  told the People Daily that the decisions were taken to prevent further spread of the virus among those handling the samples, explaining that after cessation restrictions were lifted many Kenyans thronged these facilities seeking to be tested, but some didn’t even wear masks.

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