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Grim picture as patients seek treatment

Patients wait to be attended by doctors at a hospital.(Photo: Edward Kiplimo/Standard)

At the heart of Lang’ata, a crowd of patients spills out of a mission hospital onto the car park of the outpatient wing.

The look on their faces betrays the challenges they have had to endure in pursuit of healthcare such as sluggish services, if any, and the snaking lines at the registry section.

As one steps into the inpatient area, the air gets denser as hundreds fight for the now precious oxygen.

The further you go, the more grotesque the scenery of patients who have seemingly given up on the idea of accessing treatment gets.

At the corridor outside the maternity wing, an elderly woman looks up to a cross erected on the wall as she mumbles a quick prayer for her expectant daughter who lies on the ground, hoping that a patient is discharged so that she can get a bed.

A few steps away, Aurtburt Munyau, a two-year-old child, runs around oblivious of his condition as his mother tearfully watches on. It is barely a day since he was diagnosed with cancer.

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“He doesn’t even know that he has leukemia and the only place where he can get quality health care is Kenyatta National Hospital. But it is currently inaccessible due to the ongoing doctor’s strike,” says Typhinah Kaili, Munyau’s mother.

The sincerity in her voice acts as a prelude to a heartrending experience of how she came seeking treatment for a bacterial infection at St Mary’s Mission Hospital, only for her son to be diagnosed with cancer.

“On December 30, last year, my son fell sick, crying endlessly and was puking everywhere so I decided to take him to Shalom Hospital in Athi River. He was treated for a bacterial infection and discharged,” explained Ms Kaili.

Two weeks later, she noticed his skin was pale and got concerned, prompting her to visit a private hospital in Kitengela for testing.

However, this was too expensive for her and her husband. She opted to go back to Shalom Hospital where it was affordable.

“On arrival, doctors took a blood sample of my son and after testing they found he had an abnormally high count of white blood cells. My fears came true when the doctors revealed he had anaemia and had to be admitted for treatment,” said Kaili.

She, however, doubted the results and requested for a referral to another health institution to either confirm or dispute the findings.

“We were referred to either Kenyatta National Hospital or Nairobi West Hospital, but since the latter was expensive and the former had no doctors, we came to St Mary’s.

“On arrival, my son was rushed to the ward because he was in dire need of a blood transfusion and this saw him admitted. All this while, I kept praying that the world would not rob me of my only child,” she said.

As if to pay credence to the maxim “from the frying pan into the fire”, bone-marrow test results came back on Monday indicating that young Munyau had leukemia – cancer of the blood cells.

“I am now confused and do not know what to do because my son cannot access treatment at KNH which is best placed to treat him. I am appealing to doctors to end their strike,” says Kaili.

She says she is contemplating selling all her belongings, shoes included, in order to take her son to Texas Cancer Centre for treatment. She says doctors had recommended Aga Khan Hospital but she says it is costly.

St Mary’s Medical Director Kimani Ngaruiya says the facility bears the brunt of the doctor’s strike.

Dr Ngaruiya revealed since the onset of doctors’ industrial action, thousands continue to flock to the mission hospital for treatment.

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The outpatient department now handles between 1,500 and 1,800 patients a day, up from approximately 800 patients before the strike.

“I support the doctors’ strike but the jailing of union officials was uncalled for because it does not solve anything. The government needs to negotiate because we would hate to close down despite the fact that we are understaffed and nurses are experiencing burnout,” said Ngaruiya.

The doctors’ strike is in its 72nd day.

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