Mombasa governor Nassir pleads with medics to resume work amid pediatric pneumonia outbreak


Residents leave the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in Mombasa amid the national doctor's strike.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit| Nation Media Group

Medics in Mombasa have turned down a return-to-work directive issued by the county government, which required them to handle a pediatric pneumonia outbreak.

Mombasa also recalled all doctors on leave or off duty and clinical officers over the cases that have seen several babies admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

The minors have been admitted to some private hospitals as services in public facilities remain paralysed due to the ongoing nationwide doctors’ strike. 

In a closed-door meeting with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists officials, Mombasa governor Abdulswamad Nassir’s administration pleaded with the medics to go back to work to save lives. 

However, KMPDU Coast branch secretary, Dr Gharib Salim Ali, rejected the plea saying they were in solidarity with their colleagues. 

In a memo seen by the Nation, dated April 8, 2024, the county executive in charge of Health, Dr Swabah Omar, urged doctors and clinical officers on leave to resume duty over the outbreak. 

“Following the increasing need for services in our facilities due to the outbreak of pediatric pneumonia among other diseases, I hereby direct that all doctors and the clinical officers who are on annual leave or off duty to be recalled back to work with immediate effect as to ensure smooth service delivery,” said Dr Omar. 

The county health boss urged the medics to treat the memo as urgent. 

The Aga Khan Hospital Mombasa pediatrician, Dr Hemed Twahir, told Nation that in the last month or so, medics have witnessed a surge in cases of diarrhea with pneumonia-like symptoms including difficulty in breathing. 

He said a few patients had been admitted to the ICU adding that colleagues have reported similar cases elsewhere.

For bacteria, medics prescribe antibiotics, whereas for viruses supportive care is required. 

Dr Twahir said other pediatricians have also witnessed similar cases with pneumonia-like symptoms with diarrhea which require very strong antibiotics. 

“They present very strong symptoms requiring very strong antibiotics and admissions to ICU or High Dependency Units (HDU). Usually with pneumonia you give antibiotics and they respond fairly easily,” added Dr Twahir. 

The medic said with the onset of rains, infection patterns change with a surge in diarrhea and new infections.

He urged parents and guardians to engage in prevention measures including washing hands using soap and drinking safe water to prevent diarrhea. 

“Boil water or use chlorine tablets to prevent diarrhea cases. For pneumonia, children present high fever and difficulty in breathing. Parents need to go to the hospital and ensure children are vaccinated at infancy six weeks, 10 weeks, and 14 weeks to prevent pneumonia,” said Dr Twahir. 

The medic says the vaccine reduces the risks of getting the disease.