Residents, patients up in arms over inefficiency at referral hospital

Baringo county's major facility is on the spot after a critically ill patient died on Sunday night over alleged negligence and hours of waiting to be attended to. Several cases of such kind have been reported at the Hospital especially during weekends

Photo credit: Flora Koech | Nation Media Group

When Dorcas Jepkemoi, 70, was rushed to Baringo County Referral Hospital in Kabarnet on Sunday afternoon, she was complaining of a severe headache and breathing difficulties.

Considering her condition, her family said the patient, from Kapkomoi village in Baringo Central, needed urgent treatment because she could barely walk or talk and was gasping for breath.

But they said her condition worsened as they waited in the outpatient area for more than three hours for a health worker to arrive and attend to her.

Esther Kokwon said she searched in the admission wards for a medic to attend to her critically ill sister-in-law to no avail.

“We arrived at the hospital at around 4pm and the patient, who was gasping for breath and complaining of a severe headache, needed urgent treatment,” she said.

“To our dismay, there were tens of patients seated on the benches in the outpatient bay waiting for a medic to show up. Owing to her condition, I could not wait, and decided to go round the facility looking for anyone to help, but I did not get help either.”

The patient was later admitted and put on a drip, but the doctor left despite the elderly woman’s worsening condition.

“She was gasping for breath and needed to be put on oxygen and of course under observation by the medics,” Ms Kokwon said.

“Sadly, she was administered a drip by the health worker and we were told to wait for one hour, when he would come back to administer more drugs, which the ailing mother of four didn’t live to get. She breathed her last minutes later.”

The incident has also sparked outrage from locals, who have protested against poor services at the hospital since the advent of devolution, claiming health workers are unmotivated and hundreds of people have died there.

They claimed the facility is run by students from Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) in Kabarnet who work without supervision from experienced workers.

Patients sleeping on benches at the Baringo County Referral Hospital in Kabarnet on July 3, 2022.

Photo credit: Flora Koech | Nation Media Group

“I went through the same predicament at the hospital in 2018, when I ended up losing my father through carelessness. It is so sad that the same thing is still happening years later,” said Jonah Yator, a resident.

Residents demanded urgent action from Governor Stanley Kiptis, noting that patients are directed to purchase drugs at private chemists because the hospital’s pharmacy lacks them.

Ruto Rono, another local, said counties have failed to provide better services and the health function should be returned to the national government.

“The sector was doing well before the advent of devolution and as it seems, most of the funds have been channeled to paying salaries instead of providing quality services and development to citizens,” Mr Rono said.

But Baringo Health executive Richard Rotich said the patient was attended to by a clinical officer and several tests were carried out before she was admitted.

“The admission process took 30 minutes and by 6pm she had been admitted to Ward One at the hospital,” Dr Rotich said.

He added that the other medications were delivered after a few minutes and they were “administered to her and the nurse proceeded to attend to other patients, leaving a medical student to keep vigil at the ward”.

An official at Baringo Referral recently exposed the rot at the hospital, claiming the county government was to blame for poor services.

Services were crippled at the hospital because of poor management and most of the vital equipment had been grounded, said board chairman Philip Cheptinga at a graduation ceremony at the Kabarnet showground on Saturday.

He said patients incurred huge expenses seeking services at hospitals in the neighbouring counties of Nakuru, Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet and others.

Among the non-functioning equipment is the vital CT scan machine that reportedly broke down in September last year and was yet to be repaired.

“I am the board chairman at the hospital but I am not impressed by what is happening there because … the sickening health sector makes me think there is no government in this region<’ Dr Cheptinga said.

“The services are poor, vital equipment that broke down eight months ago is gathering dust and is yet to be repaired.”

Major health facilities in the region were grappling with acute staff shortages and poor working conditions, said Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) North Rift chairman Darwin Ambuka.

That, he said, had led to increased referrals of patients who needed specialised treatment to hospitals in Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties.

At a media briefing in Eldoret, Dr Ambuka lamented that dozens of doctors in Baringo County had resigned over what they described as poor working conditions.

“Governor Kiptis hired five doctors; four medical officers and one orthopedic surgeon,” he said.

“One of the medics has already resigned owing to the deplorable and harsh working environment. As we speak, there is an acute doctor shortage, especially at the county’s referral hospitals in Kabarnet and Eldama Ravine where the doctor-patient ratio is wanting.”

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