Adopt a one-Kenya approach in fighting Covid-19 pandemic

Monday, July 27th, 2020 00:00 |
A health worker takes a throat swab sample for COVID-19 testing.

It has been five months since Covid-19 entered the country.  However, as Covid-19 fans out across Kenya due to reopening of once-locked down Nairobi, it is time to stake stock. 

New approaches are going to be needed in the second phase of this battle. The country cannot go on doing the same things and expect different results. It’s time to change tack!

Firstly, the Government needs to adopt a one-Kenya approach. Medical facilities in the epicenter of Nairobi are now under pressure.

People needing hospitalisation are being sent home, ending up with severe disease. Many have subsequently died.

This is as isolation and intensive care beds remain empty in other counties. There cannot be two Kenyas.

That in Nairobi Kenyans are dying for lack of hospital space while facilities elsewhere remain empty.

It’s not a new proposal. The Machakos Governor,  Alfred Mutua, was quoted recently offering to take in patients from other counties if needed.

Ministry of Health should co-ordinate this “sharing.” Use protocols based on what capacity individual counties can cede at any one time depending on their risk assessment of infections at any given period.

Further, Nairobi must return to the original seriousness in combating the pandemic.

Bars have made a huge comeback, the curfew has been completely ignored. Matatus are back to business as usual. And nobody seems to care.

Counties should also adopt a regional containment strategy. Impacts of the reopening of Mombasa and Nairobi are world’s apart.

Mombasa’s reopening has had minimal impact in the neighbouring counties, and its own cases are falling.

In contrast, Nairobi’s reopening has heavily impacted neighbours Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado.

The difference seems to be in county preparations. While governors Amason Kingi and Salim Mvurya from Kilifi and Kwale respectively worked as hard as Hassan Joho in Mombasa in containment, counties neighbouring Nairobi took little action.

Nairobi county itself has no Covid-19 management facilities. So, governors need to wake up and work.

Kenyans need to see where the Covid-19 billions are going. The government has received massive resources from World Bank, the European Union and the African Development Bank, from Central Bank of Kenya, and the Treasury.

Yet no investment is being pumped into management of Covid-19 and containment measures like expanded and faster testing, establishment of more treatment facilities, and contact tracing. 

The Jane Karuku-led Covid-19 Fund Board collected billions and went comatose. Its work is not provision of personal protective equipment like it seems to think.

This is a prerogative of Government. It is to alleviate economic hardships of Kenyans. Kenya will not win this battle this way!

Secondly, work hard to eliminate deaths. This is manageable since only a small percentage of patients end up needing intensive care as 89 per cent of patients are asymptomatic and can be managed at home. 

Using the one-Kenya approach, anybody visiting a hospital with symptoms must get tested and admitted, even if they have to get a bed in another county. A drop in deaths will dramatically alter the dynamic of this disease.

Thirdly, hospitals are behaving badly. Patients are being turned away, others mistreated and abandoned to their fate, all because they have ‘Covid-19’ symptoms. It is wrong and Health CS  Mutahi Kagwe, must step in. 

The Ministry must immediately ensure all medical workers in private and public hospitals are trained to handle Covid-19 patients.

No patient should be abandoned or turned away. A patient with Covid-19 is a patient like any other. 

So all hospitals in Kenya must prepare adequately to handle Covid-19 patients, with isolation rooms, and personal protective equipment.

This will enable them to start treating a patient even if they suspect he has Covid-19. After all, will they throw out the patient if his results come back positive?

And lastly, medical insurers must be commended for standing with Kenyans. They have agreed to pay for Covid-19 treatment, and have been doing so since March 2020. - [email protected]

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