Doctors Helplessly Watch as Journalist's Father Dies

  • The Kitui County Referral Hospital.
    The Kitui County Referral Hospital.
    File
  • Catherine Wambua Soi, an Al Jazeera journalist, is in mourning following the death of her father.

    The journalist shared the harrowing tale of how her father was denied treatment at Kitui General Hospital despite being in critical condition.

    The hospital reportedly turned him away, citing the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits necessary to handle any patient presenting breathing complications.

    The county, in April 2020 set up a factory near the hospital for the mass production of PPE kits.

    Below is Soi's story that paints a grim picture of the current state of hospitals in Kenya amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Catherine Wambua Soi reporting outside Kenya's Parliament building.
    Catherine Wambua Soi reporting outside Kenya's Parliament building.
    File

    My father is sick. He has kidney problems and needs urgent dialysis & has been doing poorly this week. Kitui General hospital turned him away yesterday because of breathing problems. They say they can't admit him with his oxygen that low.

    A doctor they (Soi's mum and nephew) spoke to says he needs to get admitted & starts on the paperwork but then comes back and says "sorry oxygen levels are too low to admit so you have to take him elsewhere".

    Latest from Kitui General Hospital. Dad not admitted because there is no PPE kit & nurses as well as doctors understandably afraid. 

    How is it possible in a county with Kicotec manufacturing & exporting PPE?

    My mom is overwhelmed, my dad's breathing is erratic. Doctor suggests we take him to Machakos or Nairobi or another hospital still in Kitui, but further away, where they deal with "Covid patients". 

    So my mom & nephew took him back home and did what they thought was best at that time. They called people to pray for him.

    Unfortunately he passed away. I will revisit the issue after I bury and mourn him.

    Friends, colleagues and Kenyans who were moved by her heartbreaking experience took to social media to not only mourn with her, but to also vent their anger towards the hospital.

    "So sorry for your loss. Strength & grace to your family at this time," Citizen TV's Waihiga Mwaura wrote.

    "Can we turn this anger into a movement fighting for better healthcare in Kenya? For too long we have been brutalised and disenfranchised by the political class with only soft headlines to fight back," a concerned Kenyan added.

    On July 24, the Ministry of Health said that the health facilities in the country still have the capacity to accommodate more Covid-19 patients, dismissing claims that they are overwhelmed.

    Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi said that each of the 47 counties in the country are also pushing to equip at least 300-isolation bed capacity.

    “The number is still building up and everyday counties continue to increase the number of isolation beds. When it comes to ICU beds, we have more than 400 beds so in terms of our assessment we are still not yet overwhelmed. We are still under the threshold of raising the alert level,” Mwangangi said at the time.

    The country has since witnessed a second wave of the deadly virus, with deaths in October alone averaging at 10 a day.

    This was part of the reason the Health Ministry introducing the Home-based care program.

    However, the legislative framework on emergency medical treatment in Kenya is anchored on the provisions of the Constitution which guarantees every person the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

    In particular, Article 43(2) provides that no person shall be denied emergency medical treatment. 

    Naturally, in law, given that the Constitution is only meant to provide broad guiding principles, it does not expound further on the circumstances under which this right can be enforced.

    Catherine Soi's story has once again highlighted the shortcoming of Kenya's healthcare system, with countless Kenyans sharing her story and calling for change.

    Health CS Mutahi Kagwe addressing the Nation about Corona Virus outside Afya House on March 17, 2020.
    Health CS Mutahi Kagwe addressing the Nation about Corona Virus outside Afya House on March 17, 2020.
    Simon Kiragu
    Kenyans.co.ke