Beds reserved for accident victims at the Kenyatta National Hospital have been taken over by cholera patients as the scourge continues to ravage the country.
By last evening, the country’s referral hospital had about 70 patients – some in critical condition and overflowing from the isolation wards.
It comes only days after two Cabinet ministers and a Principal secretary, among tens of others, were treated for the disease after eating contaminated food at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
KNH’s isolation Ward 1F, which has been set aside for patients suffering from the highly infectious bacterial disease, was filled by Monday, forcing the hospital to identify additional bed spaces.
The situation at the hospital has been raised to “severe” given the number of patients received against the available facilities, which have been stretched. The ongoing nurses strike has also exacerbated the situation.
“We are dealing with a very serious situation here,” a doctor who is however not allowed to speak on behalf of the hospital told The Standard, adding that “some patients are now being attended to at the Accident and Emergency section because Ward 1F is full.”
An estimated 20 patients are being treated at the casualty section – which is point of receiving emergency cases.
Officials allowed to speak for the facility termed the cholera outbreak a national disaster that was only being handled by the Ministry of Health.
A spokesman for Nairobi County said about 96 deaths have been linked to the cholera scourge, but was to confirm the updated numbers from Dr Benard Muia, the County Executive for Health.
A satellite clinic of a city hospital at Embakasi referred two patients for admission at the main facility in critical condition.
In total, seven patients have been admitted at the hospital in the past week alone while many more are known to have been seen at various city healthcare providers.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and his Trade counterpart Adan Mohammed were booked in at the Nairobi Hospital last week.
The senior officials were rushed to hospital only hours after ingesting the contaminated food.
Cholera incubation period is less than 12 hours, and once the symptoms start, the deadly disease can kill within hours if the patient does not get treatment.
Going by the reported numbers and the scattered occurrence, the current outbreak might be among the worst in Kenya’s history.
In the previous recorded incident in 2009, a severe outbreak hit Kodiaga Prison in Kisumu killing over 30 people in less than a week. A total of 274 people died that year out of 11,769 reported cases countrywide.
Already, tens of patients have died at home and in several healthcare facilities since May 13 outbreak linked to a wedding in Karen, Nairobi.
Fears are now rife about the interventions taken by the Nairobi County Government and the Ministry of Health in stopping the spread of the scourge.
It all started when dozens of people who had attended a wedding in Karen in mid-May contracted the deadly infection, with at least four succumbing.
Among the four deaths were close relatives who were later buried at their rural home in Vihiga County.
It is unclear why Afya House has chosen to control the flow of information yet the disease could be spiraling out of control.
Yesterday, The Standard caught up with a family member of a survivor who narrated the events leading up to his admission in hospital and the escape.
Gabriel Doba’s brother had chapati and beef stew for lunch last Thursday, a sumptuous meal that would cost him heavily.
Just an hour after the meal, things went down south. A strange stomachache that preceded by a rumbling stomach that would not stop.
What followed was vomiting and uncountable visits to the washroom. By evening, he had got worse, said Doba. That is when he was rushed to a local facility in South B.
“But it seemed the doctors knew nothing of what he was suffering from. They just put him on two drips and we had to pay Sh21,000,” Doba narrated.
Having exhausted their option, the facility decided to refer him to Kenyatta National Hospital. Luckily, Doba’s brother was scheduled to be discharged yesterday when The Standard made an undercover visit to the facility.
Patients in the most severe condition are held at the casualty, before they are transferred to the isolated wards when bed space become available.
At the entrance to the casualty section, a male medical attendant who registers patients has his mouth and nose covered with a face mask, showing just how serious the situation is.
The floors of ward 1F are sparkless; almost too clean for a normal public health facility. A relatively white rug placed on the ward’s entrance dictated that you thoroughly wipe the soles of your feet before you step in.
The air in the corridor had a strong smell of chlorine. We later learnt that the all cleaning activities in the wards are done with treated water.
An attendant at the ward said the bedding are changed daily but it is normal to have patients using more than one set of beddings in a day – owing to vomiting and diarrhoea.
While earlier there were claims that nurses have been keeping off the facility, when The Standard visited, the most active workers were the subordinate staff who are mandated to change the dirty sheets, clean the floor and make sure the washrooms are clean.
Nurses are said to be avoiding being assigned duties in the ward for fear of being infected. It was also disclosed to The Standard that one of the KNH staff, though not a nurse, is among those hospitalised.
An health worker in the facility revealed that the hospital is utilising the expertise of some of the nurses who travelled to Liberia and Sierra Leon as volunteers in 2015.