Staff negligence blamed for prenatal deaths at Lamu’s Mpeketoni hospital

A section of Mpeketoni Sub-County hospital main gate and fence in Lamu West. Alarm has been raised over increased death to newborn babies at the facility.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu I Nation Media Group

Rising deaths of infants at Lamu’s Mpeketoni Sub-County Hospital in recent months have caused alarm.

Most of the deaths occur during or shortly after delivery, with affected families blaming hospital staff negligence.

Nation.Africa has established that in some months, the hospital lost at least four infants every week, translating to one infant death every day.

Infant death notifications that we have seen for September 18, for instance, indicate that three infants died the same day, with locals believing that the number could be higher.

We also established that the prenatal deaths recorded in October so far have reached 15, with hospital administrators saying 12 had died.

The affected families that we interviewed demanded an immediate investigation and urged officials to take action against health staff that they claimed are on a ‘mission’ to have pregnant women suffer by losing their babies.

Amos Kangangi, a resident of Uziwa village in Mpeketoni, believes that had the hospital promptly attended to their daughter, the outcome could have been different.

His daughter, Jane Wawira, lost her newborn baby at the hospital on September 18, after staying in the labour ward for five days.

The family, he said, was prepared psychologically for their daughter to undergo a C-section to deliver their first grandchild, especially after doctors had previously suggested that the baby was too big for a natural birth.

Mr Kangangi said he brought his daughter to Mpeketoni hospital on September 14.

Two days later, labour pains began but nurses insisted that she give birth naturally and kept inducing her.

“I wasn’t happy to see the nurses forcing my daughter to give birth naturally though I had furnished them with all the medical history that suggested a C-section,” he said.

“The worst thing is that no doctor was around to observe and give proper directions. You can imagine from September 16 to 18 my daughter was being forced to deliver naturally.”

He added, “I had to contact the doctor in charge at around 4am on that September 18. He was away from the hospital. He came at 5am and immediately directed that my daughter be taken to the theatre. It was too late. They operated on her and within 45 minutes, the doctor came out to give me the bad news that the baby had died.”

The matter was reported to hospital administrators, who promised to follow up on it.

The family of Edward Wachira, a resident of Mikinduni village in Mpeketoni, also suffered the same fate.

His wife Meresia Adhiambo came to the hospital to deliver their fifth-born child.

His wife had complained of labour pains around 5am that fateful day and by 7am, the couple had arrived at the facility.

“We were left unattended for six hours. They took my wife to the theatre. I knew it was too late. They delivered the baby but he died a few minutes later. He inhaled too much fluid,” Mr Wachira said.

Alice Waruguru’s daughter, Mary Njambi, is among those who lost their newborn babies at Mpeketoni hospital on September 18.

Ms Waruguru accompanied her daughter to deliver her first child on Friday, September 17.

She said nurses and doctors ignored them.

“My daughter was in labour pains but was left unattended from 1am to 7pm on Saturday, only for the nurses and doctors to come and whisk her to the operation theatre after realising that she was in danger. The baby didn’t survive,” Ms Waruguru said.

She called on the county government to closely monitor the behaviour of staff, especially those working in the maternity wing, adding that more infants will die if something is not done urgently.

“The same day I was at the hospital, I had two friends who also lost their newborns due to staff negligence. That’s enough indication that services at Mpeketoni hospital are poor,” she said.

Lamu County Health Executive Anne Gathoni said that prenatal deaths had been reported at Mpeketoni Sub-County Hospital.

This month alone, Dr Gathoni said, 12 newborns had died at the facility compared with the previous average of two to three deaths per month in the whole county.

She dismissed the claims that hospital staff had been negligent.

“According to our findings, this is due to two factors: first, most of the 12 instances involved delays in getting to the hospital, and second, it coincided with the fourth wave of the (Covid-19) pandemic, which saw most patients delaying visits to health institutions for basic services,” Dr Gathoni said.

She said Lamu had made rapid progress in improving neonatal survival and promoting health and well-being by improving the quality and availability of care for small and unwell newborns.

Officials are encouraging pregnant women to attend antenatal clinics and checkups through a community sensitisation programme.

“We are advising our pregnant women to visit health institutions early if they go into labour. Community advocacy is being carried out in a variety of ways, including home visits by community health volunteers,” she said.

“The county government also intends to open an operating theatre at Witu Health Centre in order to relieve pressure on Mpeketoni hospital.”


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