An acute oxygen shortage at Kakamega County General Teaching and Referral Hospital has forced relatives with patients to carry their own cylinders to save their loved ones.
An insider at the facility who sought anonymity told the Nation patients have to supplement the biting oxygen supply at the hospital.
Last week, six families were asked to bring oxygen cylinders so their loved ones could be admitted, pointing to the crisis gripping the Lake region where health facilities have run out of oxygen.
“The available oxygen cylinders at the facility are empty. Of the six families, only one was able to supply the oxygen cylinder to save the life of their loved one,” disclosed the insider.
Those unable to afford the oxygen cylinders are forced to turn to other facilities.
“I know of a case where a patient was asked to pay a deposit of sh20,000 to get bed space at a local hospital. They were told to look for another Sh50,000 for treatment,” she said.
The source also raised concerns over testing kits at the referral hospital, saying they are to expire next month.
Covid-19 patient died
Last week, a Covid-19 patient died while waiting to get a bed at the hospital’s isolation centre.
At the Intensive Care Unit, only three beds have oxygen supply.
The isolation centre has 20 patients; including seven on supplemental oxygen and two on ventilator support.
Two patients are in ICU while seven are admitted at the hospital’s burns unit, which has been converted into an isolation centre.
Kakamega County has reported 24 deaths this month following a surge in infections, especially in Lurambi, Kakamega town.
In Kisumu County, 88 deaths have been recorded in June, while at least 10 people have died of Covid-19 in Homa Bay County, 23 in Kericho, 12 in Bomet and seven in Busia in the same period.
The infections in Kakamega are linked to the high number of people travelling into and out of Kakamega town from the neighbouring Vihiga, Bungoma, Siaya and Busia counties.
Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, who is the Kakamega governor, and the bloc’s Health Pillar Director Rosemary Obara revealed that oxygen supply is still a major challenge for hospitals in the region.
According to Dr Obara, Siaya County, which has been supplying oxygen to most hospitals in the lake region blo,c is now over-stretched.
Out of the 14 counties in the bloc, only Kisii, Siaya, Trans Nzoia and Kericho have oxygen supply plants, Dr Obara said.
“Kisumu County, for instance, depends on Siaya and Kisii to get oxygen,” she said. “Right now they are restricting the supply to other counties,” she stated.
During the bloc’s 7th summit held at Ciala Resort in Kisumu on Friday, Mr Oparanya admitted the region is experiencing acute shortage of oxygen.
He said there will no longer be any Covid-19 referral restrictions in the Lake region hospitals as the bloc renews efforts to tame the rising cases.
"Going forward, we have agreed that there will be no restrictions and patients will be admitted to any hospital within the bloc," he said.
He said the county had procured a new oxygen manufacturing plant from France to improve supply at the general hospital and the level four facilities in the region.
“We have an oxygen plant that can produce 300 litres of oxygen per minute, but we have imported another with a capacity to produce 1000 litres per minute,” said Mr Oparanya.
The governor also disclosed that Kakamega County had run out of vaccines and could not proceed with the second phase of the vaccination drive.
“The reluctance forced us to surrender 5,000 doses to a neighbouring county,” he said.
The county vaccinated 24,120 people in the first phase of the campaign.
Apart from Nandi, which was not included in the list of counties to be affected by the new Covid-19 regulations, other members of the bloc are Kisumu, Migori, Kakamega, Bomet, Siaya, Busia, Homa Bay, Kisii, Vihiga, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kericho and Nyamira.
The 14-member counties also agreed to share data on the status of Covid-19 in the region through the Committee of Eminent Persons chaired by Prof Khama Rogo.
To boost the fight against the virus, the five LREB governors at a meeting last Friday said they will engage Health CS Mutahi Kagwe this week to allow them to directly import rapid testing kits to intensify their capacities. "PCR tests take more time to test and may not be ideal for fighting the virus, which is building up at a faster rate,' said Mr Oparanya.