Country stares at huge health crisis as virus kills 31 medics

Monday, November 16th, 2020 00:00 |
Acting Director General of health Patrick Amoth. Photo/PD/FILE

Kenya stares at a health crisis as the marauding coronavirus global pandemic  takes a toll on medics.

At least 10 doctors have succumbed to the dreaded Covid-19 virus as healthcare workers in the country began to bear the brunt of the disease since its outbreak in the country last March.

By yesterday, the virus that had left about 31 healthcare workers dead and infected about 800 doctors, 320 clinical officers and 600 nurses.

Out of the 31 dead healthcare workers, ten are doctors, while the rest are nurses and clinical officers.

But the figure reached alarming levels in the last two weeks in which the country lost Dr Ndambuki Mboloi, Dr Daniel Alushula, Dr Robert Ayisi, Dr Hudson Inyangala, Dr Vladmir Schukin, Dr Ashraf Emarah, Dr Hudson Alumera, Dr Jacqueline Njoroge, Dr Faith K Mbuba to the deadly virus.

The high rate of infection among healthcare workers has sparked alarm among medics, with the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentist Union (KMPDU) yesterday giving the government seven days to provide them with comprehensive insurance cover and provision of enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) failure to which they will down their tools.

Yesterday, Deputy President William Ruto said the country ought to stop everything it is doing and concentrate on the fight against Coronavirus following the increase in the number of deaths and infections.

“The wave of covid-19 is clearly ravaging our nation with alarming increases in infections and deaths.

The pandemic is killing people including health workers while destroying livelihoods. We should stop everything and mobilise every human, material and financial resource to fight the pandemic,” read a tweet posted on his twitter account.

Testing kits shortage

Veteran lawyer John Khaminwa also waded into the subject, arguing that the country was wasting a lot of resources on issues of little or no relevance to Kenyans today and called for the nation to shift its focus on the pandemic.

“Let the BBI money be spent on the crotical issues affecting the country,” said Dr Khaminwa.

However, it is not clear whether the apparent disproportionate rate of infection might be because medical staff members are more likely to be tested for the illness.

Few people with the classic Covid-19 symptoms of high fever and respiratory problems are being tested in the country, because of a shortage of testing kits.

KMPDU and the acting Director General of Health Dr Patrick Amoth described Saturday as a dark day for the medical fraternity following the death of Ashraf, Alumera, Njoroge and Mbabu all within a period of 24 hours.

The same Saturday, Kenyans also woke up to the news of the death of former Football Kenya Limited (FKL) chair Mohamed Hatimy and closed the day with the sudden demise of Matungu MP Justus Murunga.

Besides, the 10 doctors, the country has also lost several high-profile personalities among them Prof Maurice Mang’oli (senior electrical and information engineering lecturer at the University of Nairobi), Kamau Mugenda (Kemri HR director),  comedian   Papa Shirandula, Mabel Muruli (2017 Kakamega Jubilee gubernatorial aspirant), Anthony Waswa (personal assistant to Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi), Ken Ouko (University of Nairobi don), Peter Gichaga (Nyeri Water and Sanitation Company MD), Peter Chonda (Huruma ward MCA in Uasin Gishu) and Robert Sumbi (Kakamega Chief of Staff).

Nairobi-based Dr Doreen Lugaliki Adisa, a mother of 13-year-old twins, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Nairobi South Hospital was the first Kenyan doctor to succumb to Covid-19 in July.

Lugaliki, who had been diabetic, died at the Aga Khan University Hospital. Soon after Lugaliki’s case, the ministry announced the death of Dr Mboloi, a pulmonologist at the Kenyatta National Hospital, Alumera, a dental don at the University of Nairobi.

This month has witnessed the highest number of deaths of doctors, starting with that of Alushula, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Kakamega County General Hospital, who was also in private practice.

He was immediately followed by Inyangala, a medic with 25 years’ experience in the fight against HIV/Aids while attached with Aphiaplus; Ayisi, a former Nairobi county CEC for Health and later Secretary; Schukin, a former KMPDU secretary general and one time lecturer at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital who was in private practice with an office at Fifth Avenue Building; Emarah, an Egyptian, working as a plastic surgeon and lecturer at the MTRH; and Mbuba.

Dr Njoroge, a deputy medical superintendent at Thika Level Five Hospital who was  the latest victim on Saturday, had dedicated her life caring for cancer patients.

Before succumbing to the virus which she had battled for two weeks, Njoroge had taken a tough choice to undergo a convalescent plasma therapy to treat Covid-19 at the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital.

Plasma therapy treatment involves injecting blood from a former Covid-19 patient to a sick patient, in the hope of introducing the healing anti-bodies in the latter.

And yesterday, the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO) attributed the rise in the number of healthcare workers being infected and dying to the government’s failure to exclude the aged and those with underlying conditions from reporting to work.

“These deaths would have been avoided had the government heeded our advisories and those of Who to exclude this category from active duty as it is with other countries like Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, Rwanda and Australia,” KUCO secretary general George Gibore told journalists.

Mwachonda on the other hand said they were scheduled to review their operations at the end of a meeting in Nairobi in the wake of the latest development.

Subsequently, the clinicians have issued nine demands they would like the government to fulfil among them immediate distribution of PPEs lying idle at Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) to health facilities, comprehensive cover for HCWs, increment of health risk allowance, and expectant HCWs and those above 55 years to work from home.

The disease seems to be taking its toll among healthcare workers at a time the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a terrifying warning to billions of people around the globe, saying: “We may be tired of Covid-19 but it is not tired of us.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told countries not to pin their hopes on the rapid release of various vaccines currently in the latter stages of development.

He told the Paris Peace Forum: “We may be tired of Covid-19 but it is not tired of us.

It preys on those in weaker health, but it preys on other weaknesses too: inequality, division, denial, wishful thinking and wilful ignorance. We cannot negotiate with it, nor close our eyes and hope it goes away.”

In the last two weeks, Kenya has reported 14,081 new cases, representing 20.3 per cent of the total 69,273 fatalities. 

Amoth attributed the increase in cases and deaths to the rise in community infections. 

As of yesterday, there were 1,185 patients in various hospitals and 5,974 in home based care. Of these patients, 58 are in ICU, and 15 in high dependency units.

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