Recently, there has been a debate about the number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in the country, in the wake of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Currently, there are 518 ICU beds in the country, with most of them (247) being in Nairobi County.
At least seven counties, Kitui, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Turkana, Elgeyo Marakwet, Marsabit and Migori do not have even a single ICU bed, according to media reports.
Bungoma County, our focus, has 23 beds, distributed in two private hospitals, Life Care Hospital Bungoma (21) and Bungoma West Hospital (2).
The County’s largest public hospital, Bungoma Referral Hospital, does not have even a single ICU bed, despite having received a donation of the same from First Lady Margaret Kenyatta in 2018.
The donation included ICU beds, anaesthesia machines, biopsy instruments, ECG machines, patient monitors, endoscopy machines and an assortment of pharmaceutical and medical supplies, according to a press statement from the governor’s press service.
“The Bungoma County Referral Hospital was elevated to Level 5 status in April last year (2017), and currently plans are underway to expand its medical infrastructure, to include a maternity and child wing, a theatre for emergency surgeries and critical care services to ease congestion,” read the statement in part.
The first lady had made such donations to three other hospitals; Kieni Hospital (Embu County), Chemolingot District Hospital (Baringo County) and Kitui County Referral Hospital (Kitui County).
Kitui county does not have a single ICU bed, and it is not yet clear whether the ICU beds were actually donated or it was just a PR stunt.
However, what is worrying in Bungoma is that the County Executive Committee Member in charge of Health Dr Athony Walela was photographed on December 13, 2019, while opening two ICU beds at a private hospital in Bungoma (Bungoma West Hospital).
In his speech, he expressed desperation and failure of the County Government to acquire such modern facilities for the public hospitals and health centres citing lack of funds.
With the ICU beds not there/working, the First Lady’s plea might never be taken care of if anti-graft authorities do not intervene and save the ailing health department of Bungoma County.
“I hope that the medical supplies and equipment we will be providing will enhance the hospital’s efforts to handle more deliveries of babies, as well as surgeries and the many emergencies it encounters daily,” said the First Lady.
The donations were made possible through a special partnership between Beyond Zero and two American organisations — Project CURE (Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment) and Friends of Africa International. Project CURE is the largest provider of donated medical supplies and equipment to more than 130 countries.