Nakuru War Memorial Hospital row: Family in agony as body of kin held in morgue

Magdalene Mwikali (inset) whose body has been lying at the Nakuru War Memorial Hospital mortuary since September 26, 2023.

As the wrangles over the ownership of the Nakuru War Memorial Hospital rages on, the dead at the hospital mortuary have not been spared the agony.

As the confusion, blood, death threats, and hired goons reduce the once reliable hospital into a field of anarchy, not even the last body of a septuagenarian remaining at the hospital is spared.

The family of 73-year-old Magdalene Mwikali is in agony as their efforts to collect the body for burial have hit a brick wall.

The body of the woman has been lying at the mortuary since September 26, 2023, after Mr Richard Migwi claimed to be her husband.

However, Mwikali’s siblings moved to court to stop him from burying their mother.

Nakuru Senior Resident Magistrate Emmanuel Soita declined to grant Mr Migwi prayers to collect the body for burial, and that the siblings had the right to bury her.

 But this relief for Ms Mwikali’s siblings has not meant much, as they still cannot take their kin for burial.

Every morning after the February 13 ruling, some of the family members with grim expressions have been gathering outside the hospital gate hoping to collect the body of their mother in vain.

They watch wiping every tear from their eyes hoping the goons stationed at the hospital will allow them to enter and pick up the body of their mother.

But they are not lucky, and instead, they daily wipe every tear from their eyes.

"This is a double trauma," says Ms Juliana Mbata, one of the daughters, sobbing as she fetches a white handkerchief from her bag to wipe out more tears.

"First, my dear mom is dead and is not even aware of the wrangles in this hospital. The county government which has taken over Nakuru War Memorial Hospital should allow us to collect the body,” said Ms Mbata.

“Now the matter has been resolved by the court which has issued a court order allowing my family to collect the body but the hospital authority under the county government is not giving us peace of mind.”

“Indeed, we feel as a family we have received the death sentence as long as the body of our mother is detained at the mortuary and the county government doesn’t want to release it for burial,” added Ms Mbata.

“Why is the county government inflicting our family with more pain and sorrow when we want to give our mom a decent send-off and move on with life?” posed another family relative.

 “No one understands or even cares for us. This is very inhumane. The staff at the Annex Hospital who are in charge of the mortuary have threatened us that they will order the power at the mortuary to be switched off if we don’t pay Sh200,000 fees,” said Ms Mbata.

 “It is distressing for our family. We want to move quickly to bury our mom in dignity. Daily we’re unable to manage this distress, and sometimes because of the fear that her body will start decomposing as the hospital has threatened to switch off power at the facility makes us sick as a family,” explained Ms Mbata.”

The family is now worried that the consequences of this mistreatment by the devolved unit may result in long-lasting mental distress for family members.

Ms Mbata describes how her sister received a call from a senior hospital official at Annex Hospital asking them to act quickly and remove the body of their mother or else it would be taken to Nakuru County Mortuary.

"This is a disrespectful way of handling the dead.”

However, County Secretary and Head of Public Service Samwel Mwaura denied the claims.

“At the moment the county is not managing Nakuru War Memorial Hospital. But as county government we are ready to intervene and help the distraught family,” said Dr Mwaura.

There has been a public outcry amongst ordinary residents, lawyers, business communities, and other professionals in Nakuru City and beyond over the way the county government has forcibly taken over the private hospital.

At least two judges have recused themselves from the case over disobedience of six court orders after police officers in Nakuru failed to enforce the court directives.  

Chief Justice Martha Koome this week waded into the saga that has gripped Nakuru City for the past five months.

CJ Koome warned police against ignoring court orders in the saga which has led to two judges recusing themselves from handling the matter.

CJ Koome says this situation lowers the dignity of the court, affects the administration of justice, and is a threat to the rule of law.