In a lightning swoop on the county’s main health facilities, Gakuru finds overcrowded wards, leaking toilets and absent medics.
800 out of an estimated 1,000 nurses in the county are on strike, leaving some facilities grappling with severe staff shortages.
Governor Wahome Gakuru came face to face with the sorry state of the county’s major hospitals minutes after being sworn in on Monday.
During an impromptu tour of the facilities shortly after his swearing-in ceremony at Nyeri Town Hall on Monday, Mr Gakuru demanded a comprehensive report on the status of all health centres in the county.
The new governor’s first stop was the Nyeri County Referral Hospital where the hospital administrator, Silas Njoroge, revealed that only one surgical theatre was operational. The other two were shut down due to staff shortages.
“Out of the 23 doctors, 11 are on work study leave for the next three years. There are roughly 100 nurses working at the hospital,” said Dr Njoroge.
He said the facility needed an additional 300 nurses and several specialist doctors to address the current staffing challenges.
Inside the wards, Gakuru came face to face with patients sharing beds. He demanded a comprehensive report on how to address the overcrowded wards.
The hospital has been struggling to cope with soaring patient numbers. It is the only public referral health facility offering services in the county as others have shut down due to the ongoing nurses’ strike.
At least 800 out of an estimated 1,000 nurses in the county are on strike, leaving some facilities grappling with severe staff shortages.
At Karatina Level IV Hospital, the governor found leaking toilets and bathrooms in the wards and a stalled multi-million-shilling casualty department building that was started five years ago.
David Ndegwa, the hospital administrator, said the hospital’s nursery was overcrowded and risked having electricity disconnected for non-payment of a Sh300,000 bill.
“We have capacity for 12 new-borns but often we have no choice but to put more than 15 babies in the nursery,” said Dr Ndegwa.
Gakuru offered his assumption of office funds, totalling Sh5 million, to the hospital but directed immediate fixing of the leaking toilets.
“The plumbing issues should be resolved. Patients should not be exposed to such dangers while seeking medical attention,” he said.
“The funds offered to Karatina Hospital will still be sent to the facility after they are properly appropriated and will then be used in the renovations and expansion of the hospital nursery,” he added.
At Mukurweini Hospital, which serves as the referral centre for the constituency, the governor found only one clinical officer on duty.
“This is unacceptable; if someone was in need of urgent medical attention in Mukurweini town, they would have to travel to Nyeri town or Mathira constituency to receive treatment,” he complained.
At Othaya District Hospital, the governor visited patients and promised to work closely with the national government to complete Othaya Level V Hospital.
On the campaign trail, Gakuru had pledged to overhaul the county’s health sector.
During his inauguration speech, the new governor described the county as sick and in need of urgent medical attention due to the deteriorating state of the health sector.
He blamed the deterioration of the healthcare system to infighting and corruption over the last two years.
In 2015, a report by the defunct Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) ranked Nyeri County as having one of the best healthcare systems in the country, with the highest number of staff.
The CIC report showed that the county’s ratio of nurses and doctors was way above the national average.