Lack of emergency health services in Taita-Taveta County has left thousands of people in dire straits.
Several patients have reportedly died due to lack of ambulances, which brings to question the pilot Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme being rolled out in the county.
UHC is one of the Big Four Agenda of the Jubilee administration aimed at transforming health services. The aim is to ensure all Kenyans have access to preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services at minimum financial burden.
But all is not well on the ground. Last week, a woman died in Taveta for lack of an ambulance to ferry her to St Joseph Shelter of Hope in Voi.
A relative, Isaac Matolo, said the patient was admitted at a private facility in Taveta town but her situation required urgent specialised treatment.
“We were told to move our patient to a sub-county hospital. This is a sad state of affairs. If you are in urgent need of medical assistance in this county, then you are likely to lose your life because there are no ambulances to rush you to hospital,” he said.
The Moi County Referral Hospital in Voi has only two ambulances. There are three ambulances in Taveta Sub-county, one in Mwatate and two in Wundanyi.
Five ambulances, including three donated by a hospital in the United States in 2019, have been grounded due to mechanical problems. This comes in the middle of a strike that has caused untold suffering to residents.
The County Executive for Health, John Mwakima, said plans were under way to buy three more ambulances and revamp the emergency sector to prevent deaths that occur due to lack of emergency services.
“We are looking for spare parts to repair the grounded ambulances. We are also working towards improving the services by buying more ambulances in the next budget,” he said.
The CEC said all ambulances will have advanced life-saving equipment and urged relatives to move patients to the nearest health facility before calling for an ambulance.
“The patient must be evaluated first before they are moved to an ambulance. There were incidents where people used to call for ambulances yet their cases were not severe. In such cases, we deny those who genuinely need critical care,” said Mr Mwakima.
“The problem is that residents are not aware of the procedure to be followed when one needs an ambulance. We have agreed to conduct awareness for people to understand what to do when in need of such services,” he added.