Governors rush to refurbish, build hospitals

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Ongoing construction at the Murang’a district hospital. Photo/PD/Rebeccah Wangari

Wangari Njuguna

Counties are racing against time to equip hospitals should coronavirus spread to the regions, in a move that has also exposed their general unpreparedness on health matters.

The state of  preparedness in county hospitals is poor despite them spending the lion’s share of their budgets since the advent of devolution on health.

Devolved units, which for long have been grappling with poor health care systems despite spending an upward of 30 per cent of their budget on the sector, now have to construct new intensive care units (ICUs) in record time, earning praise and ridicule in equal measure for county chiefs.

Others are refurbishing existing facilities and converting them into ICU and isolation centres as well as training their healthcare workers to enable them to tackle the pandemic, whose national tally rose to 281 yesterday.

Murang’a County Government, for instance, has embarked on an ambitious project to construct a 35-bed ICU facility at Murang’a Level Five Hospital as part of the preparation measures against Covid-19, in a record 21 days.

“Nobody had foreseen this pandemic and thus the need to put in drastic measures to ensure no life is lost.

We could be having a situation where we get patients flocking our hospital and we need to be prepared on how to handle them,” said Wa Iria, who has been making daily inspections of the project.

The construction is done day and night and the workers have 11 more days to go, with Wa Iria saying he intends to open the facility as soon as possible.

The governor says  the facility, which is expected to be the biggest in Central region, shall handle patients who might be critically affected by the disease.

He said all the necessary equipment for the facility have already been purchased.

“I am personally supervising how the work is being done and it shall be complete in the set days,” said Wa Iria.

Tighten grip

With two cases of Corona having been reported in the county,  the Governor said they are leaving nothing to chance to ensure it does not spread further.

County Health Executive Joseph Mbai said there are two isolation wards set up in the county to handle patients suspected to have the virus.

In addition eight quarantine centres have also been established which will be used to contain those found flouting the safety measures issued by the government.

Mbai said most residents are still taking things casually and this has forced the county government to tighten its grip in the fight against Covid-19.

“We have issued a directive that anybody found in public places without wearing a face mask shall be taken to mandatory quarantine and they shall cater for their cost,” he said.

Last week, 52 people who were being ferried to a farm in Maragua were put on mandatory quarantine for 14 days.

Mbai said the county has also launched mass distribution of face masks to residents, targeting those living in remote areas.

The Executive also said they have started distributing foodstuff to the vulnerable people in the county and they are in the process of establishing a pay bill number which shall be used to mobilise funds to aid the poor.

Other measures put in place include the distribution of hand sanitisers and water tanks to help set up hand washing points in public places.

Public health officers and various corporate companies have been fumigating local market places twice a week.

“We don’t know how long this pandemic shall last but our aim is to keep sustained efforts to ensure our people are safe from the disease,” he said.

The county governments last week told the Senate that they were unprepared to tackle the pandemic.

This has raised concerns over their commitment to address health issues, which are part of the devolved functions. 

“Most counties have active cases and accreditation to operationalise regional laboratories has not been done and they do not have sample collection kits...” the submission of the governors to the Senate reads in part.

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