Mombasa County is yet to repair its Covid-19 testing machine which broke down almost a week ago.
The situation is now hampering the county's fight against the pandemic, with health workers demanding that the machine be repaired.
It is used at the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital (CGTRH), the region’s largest hospital.
The county is now relying on labs at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in Kilifi and Nairobi to test samples for the virus.
This comes amidst a strike by nurses, clinical officers and other cadres of health workers in the county. The strike has now entered its second week. It is only doctors who are working in public hospitals in the entire county.
On Friday, the county secretary and the health department met the striking frontline workers to address their challenges but they did not agree on a return to work formula.
The striking health workers are demanding remittance of third party deductions, delayed salaries, coronavirus risk allowance and comprehensive medical cover.
The Kenya National Union of Nurses Mombasa Branch Secretary Peter Maroko said the breakdown of the machine will adversely affect testing, isolation and treatment of Covid-19 patients.
Health workers at risk
“It will hamper the process of testing health workers that was initiated to help in isolating those who have contracted the disease and treat them so that we don’t lose them. We realised late diagnosis among health workers led to the deaths of our two colleagues. The two died within two days of admission to hospital as they were not initially provided with proper care and in good time,” said Mr Maroko.
He said the county can only carry out less than 50 tests and this has to be done in Kilifi.
“Infections among health workers will skyrocket. The malfunction is heavily affecting coronavirus management in the entire county,” added Mr Maroko.
Mr Maroko said with the machine out of service, there are delays in getting coronavirus results, leading to a further spread of the virus, lack of contact tracing and more deaths.
Group petitions Joho
A human rights group has petitioned Governor Hassan Joho to repair the machine that has been instrumental in the fight against the pandemic.
The Executive Director of the Commission for Human Rights and Justice Julius Ogogoh has urged the Ministry of Health to intervene and ensure the machine is repaired, warning that its malfunction is detrimental to the fight against the pandemic.
“We will demonstrate and camp outside Governor Joho’s office to compel him to repair that machine. Devolving health was the worst thing that ever happened to this country. Governors are busy with politics while Kenyans are suffering. Who will heed to our cries?” asked Mr Ogogoh.
According to the county Health department, the machine broke down on Friday. But sources privy to the information revealed that it developed mechanical failure last Monday, hampering Covid-19 testing.
Mombasa has the second highest Covid-19 infection rate and deaths after Nairobi.
The county also lacks regents at CGTRH which serves the entire Coast region.
More than 78 nurses have so far been infected with the virus at the hospital. Two have so far succumbed to the virus.
The county has reported more than 100 deaths and over 6,900 coronavirus cases.