Irony: Butere hospital now 'in ICU'

Patients at the female ward at Butere county Hospital in Kakamega
county on 26th September 2022. Water and electricity supply to the hospital has been cut off.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group.

Ailing Butere Sub-County Hospital in Kakamega County is in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after water and electricity supply were disconnected over alleged nonpayment of bills, forcing patients to seek treatment at private hospitals.

Residents urged county officials to reopen the hospital that was the pride of more than 300 patients who used to seek treatment there daily.

The hospital’s medical superintendent of health Robert Siro, said it used to admit over 100 patients but the number is now less than 10.

“When the hospital was in optimal performance, we used to get at least 250 patients both in the outpatient and admission. But today, we receive less than 10 admissions, with about 30 in the outpatient department,” said Mr Siro.

The deterioration of services was caused by lack of essential pharmaceuticals, prompting patients to buy them from local chemists before they were treated at the hospital.

Healthcare and technical services were disrupted on September 19 when workers downed tools over delayed payments.

Pay arrears for casual workers had run to seven months, while the technical contracted staff had gone for 12 months without salaries.

A hailstorm on Sunday evening damaged a solar panel that was used to power a pump water.

The hospital now lacks water and electricity, forcing patients to get water from outside.

Health Chief Officer Felister Moraa said the solar equipment was damaged by hailstones.

“The hailstones on September 18 paralysed our water system and we have engaged officials from the water department to help us with water as we sort out the solar problem,” said Dr Moraa said.

Insensitive to HIV patients

The hospital hit the news headlines last year when a patient complained that health providers were allegedly insensitive to HIV patients, and this was cited as one of the main challenges in managing the virus in Butere.

In May last year,Mr Stephen Inzofu, an HIV patient, argued with nurses, who allegedly insulted him and denied him his routine antiretroviral drugs. He took his own life on May 26, 2021 because of the alleged discrimination.

Mr Inzofu had a complicated viral load that kept rising despite routine use of drugs that he picked up from the hospital.

“He told me he had been insulted by all manner of abuse by nurses at the hospital and denied his drugs,” said Ms Stella, his wife.

“He kept complaining, wondering why he was being discriminated against by the healthcare providers at the hospital. He said they would never see him again at the facility.”

The medical superintendent at the time, Alfred Ambundo, said he did not know that patients were being harassed.

“I am not aware of the complaints [against] our staff. No one has reported to us any kind of mistreatment,” said Mr Ambundo, urging patients who had been mistreated to report to his office.

In early October 2021, two decomposing bodies were discovered in the male and paediatric wards among patients. The bodies had been there for three days before they were moved to the Kakamega County General Hospital mortuary.

The news sparked an outcry from the local community, who demanded an explanation from the governor at the time, Wycliffe Oparanya.

Yesterday, residents urged officials to close the hospital, claiming it was of no use to them.

“What we have remaining is a shell of the hospital. Nothing is going on here. Health services are missing because the hospital lacks drugs and other essential commodities to offer treatment,” said Mr Richard Ashitiva.

“While healthcare should be a priority for the people of Kenya, the condition at Butere is pathetic. It is better if the hospital is suspended from operating until further notice when things return to normal.”

Health executive Collins Matemba said the cabinet would discuss the state of the hospital.

“The disconnection of electricity and water was a natural disaster when the hailstorm damaged the solar panel that was pumping water and providing electricity. We are waiting for the cabinet to give its decision on the state of the hospital,” Dr Matemba said.