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Patients to spend Christmas in death throes as medics strike continues

In the neighbouring Busia County, Wilson Oduor is mourning the death of his kin, Rashid Oduor, another victim of the doctors’ strike.

At the Mbagathi District Hospital in Nairobi lies 18-year-old Elvis Kinyanjui, another victim of the biting strike.

Bedridden, emaciated and in excruciating pain, Ms Josephine Atieno, 50, lies on her sick bed in East Seme, Kisumu county, unsure whether she will be alive tomorrow.

Ms Atieno, a widow, is suffering from chronic meningitis which has rendered her incapable of fending for herself. She has to rely on her six-year-old grandchild for the most basic of needs, including feeding and washing.

She is among the thousands of Kenyans who have been discharged from public hospitals and left to their own devices following the doctors’ strike which enters its third week on Monday.

While many of those who were discharged from public health institutions at the onset of the strike sought alternative medication at private facilities across the country, Ms Atieno is among the unfortunate ones who were left with no option but to return home and, in her own words, “wait to die a slow painful death”.

Ms Atieno was discharged from the Kombewa County Hospital when the doctors’ strike started early this month. The doctor who discharged her told her to return when the strike ends, a neighbour told the Nation.

With no money to buy even the most basic medication, Ms Atieno’s condition has deteriorated rapidly, leading to loss of memory. She has difficulties communicating and neighbours and wellwishers rely on her grandchild to interpret what she says.

Nyanya (grandmother) cannot speak well. She has been feeding on porridge alone,” says the granddaughter.

SUFFERING PEOPLE

“Can’t they see how people are suffering? I am better off in the hospital where I am given food and treated well than here at home where I have to struggle and give directions on what to be cooked,” she said.

According to the Kombewa County Hospital administrator Evans Oloo, the facility had no option but to discharge Ms Atieno and many others because they had started receiving threats from the doctors’ and nurses’ unions.

“If it was my wish, I would not have discharged Ms Atieno, the condition she left in was not good at all but we had no choice,” he says.

The late Oduor, 28, was among hundreds of patients who were discharged from the Busia County Referral Hospital when the strike started.

Mr Oduor had been admitted at the facility suffering from a kidney problem. This condition, according to Wilson, was steadily improving until the strike started.

“We were left alone with no one to attend to him when doctors and nurses went on strike. We appeal to the government to end the stalemate before many more people lose their lives like Rashid,” he pleads,.

Godfrey Ngira is also mourning the death of his mother who died shortly after being discharged from Port Victoria Hospital in Budalang’i Sub-County at the onset of the strike three weeks ago.

Mr Ngira, a medic at Alupe Hospital in Teso South Sub-County, said his mother had been admitted at the health institution after suffering a stroke. Her situation was made worse because she was also suffering from high blood pressure.

When the strike began, the hospital was forced to discharge all the patients as there were no doctors and nurses to attend to them. Her condition soon deteriorated as she could not access the drugs needed to cure the stroke and keep her blood pressure within the required levels. Inevitably, she succumbed to the stroke.

“The strike has claimed the life of my mother,” Mr Ngira said, fighting back tears.

Busia medical superintendent David Mukabi said 15 patients are still detained at the facility after failing to clear their medical bills even after being discharged due to the strike.

“Some patients have accumulated bills which must be cleared before we allow them to leave,” he said confirming that one patient died last week at the facility due to lack of medication.

At the Kisumu County Hospital, the situation is dire.

Patients who were discharged following the strike but are unable to clear their bills are being detained at the facility without medication and food.

Ms Christian Nyamganda is one of the patients.

She has been forced to spend her days and nights on the hospital’s corridors for the last three weeks.

Another patient at the same hospital, Mr Nicholas Owuor, fears his leg will have to be amputated once the strike ends.

Mr Owuor was discharged immediately the health workers went on strike but, since he had no money to clear his bills, he was detained.

“My leg is rotting. The cotton wool which was used to dress the wound is worn out so the wound is now exposed,” he told the Nation.

Kisumu County Hospital has four patients who cannot move because of the fixers on their legs. Mr Joshua Oron’s leg was due for amputation but, two weeks later, he is still waiting for the doctors to get back to work.

FEELING PAIN

“I have sensed there is a big problem, I have started feeling a lot of pain on my thighs as well,” said Mr Oron.

He is hoping the doctors will get back to work.

“If I had the money, I would have gone to a private hospital. I don’t have money. I am dying a helpless man,” he says.

When Lucy Wambui brought Kinyanjui, her nephew, to Mbagathi in search of better health care, their hope was to go back home walking hand-in-hand.

Kinyanjui was transferred from Maragua District Hospital two weeks ago after suffering a stroke that left him partially paralysed.

“I took him to hospital after he suffered a convulsion three weeks ago,” says Ms Wambui.

When there was no noticeable change in her nephew’s health, Ms Wambui decided to request for a transfer to Mbagathi Hospital which was granted.

Kinyanjui could neither feed nor hold his body in a straight position. He entirely depended on the nurses and his aunt for everything.

Once the strike started, Elvis was left on his own.

With no medical attention, Ms Wambui was forced to have him discharged last week.

She does not know when the strike will end so that Kinyanjui resumes medication, assuming he will still be alive.

“I hoped the government and the doctors would reach an agreement sooner rather than later but, from the look of things, I doubt this will end anytime soon,” she lamented.

INCREASED PRESSURE

A stone’s throw away, at the Kenyatta National Hospital, is 25-year-old Donatus Onyango.

For two weeks now, Mr Onyango has been unable to take home his nine-month-old daughter and wife despite being discharged from the facility as a result of the strike.

“I travelled overnight from Meru but when I got here, I was informed that the doctor was yet to write the discharge summary because I had not settled the hospital bill without which I cannot be allowed to take my family home,” he says.

His daughter was admitted at KNH two weeks ago after being diagnosed with a condition known as hydrocephaly which is caused by an abnormal build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain. The fluid is often under increased pressure and can compress and damage the brain. The cases are replicated countrywide with no hope in sight.

But, in a new twist, even those patients who are able to afford medical care at private health facilities may soon find themselves in the same predicament as doctors from private hospitals start showing solidarity with their striking counterparts.

On Friday, the Aga Khan University Hospital suspended 60 trainee doctors who had showed solidarity with their striking colleagues.

 Stories by Angela Oketch, Elizabeth Merab and Linet Wafula.

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