What you need to know:
- Wangui and Laban will have to live with the pain of knowing their conditions could have been prevented.
- She would dress her the wound herself and it took the help of the security guards to help her move from her bed
For almost two months, from December last year, health workers were on strike.
The workers were protesting over inadequate protective gear and failure by their employer to honour a deal to improve their terms of service.
Some of the workers refused to attend to patients with suspected coronavirus symptoms, leading to death during referrals.
Most public hospitals were closed. Those that opened had no nurses and clinical officers, forcing most of the patients to be discharged or their loved ones to take care of them in the facilities without treatment.
Mary Wangui, 32, has to live with the pain of having her leg amputated because of an infection she developed during the health workers strike.
Wangui, from Makadara in Mombasa, was involved in an accident before the strike began. She was admitted at Coast General Hospital at the orthopaedic ward for two months. The strike began when she was still in the hospital.
She would dress her the wound herself and it took the help of the security guards to help her move from her bed to the washrooms.
As if this was not enough, it is the same January when nurses were on strike that the screws holding together her bones were to be removed. Unfortunately, there was no one to attend to her.
This caused her a bone infection in her leg. Due to this, doctors recommended amputation to avoid the infection from spreading. And just like that, she will have her left leg amputated, thanks to the strike.
“It is not that I am blaming them because they also have to fight for what they deserve, but I am also sad that I will lose my leg because of something that could have been prevented,” Wangui told the HealthyNation at her home in VOK in Mombasa County.
The mother of one is still contemplating on whether to have her leg removed or just to seek a second opinion.
Jafnedha Laban says he developed ureteral obstruction on February 2 and stayed for two days without being able to pass urine. He went to Kongowea dispensary and they inserted a catheter.
That was days before the strike began. He went to have the catheter removed since he was not admitted and found that the doctors were on strike. He was advised to go for the removal in another hospital.
He went to a different hospital was instructed to pay Sh2, 000. He changed the catheter though the new one was wrongly inserted, and he developed another blockage. They went to another private hospital and parted with Sh4,500 for the removal and insertion of the another catheter.
Because he stayed with the condition for too long without treatment, he has since developed an inflammation in his left kidney.
Early diagnosis is important because most cases of obstruction can be corrected and a delay in treatment can lead to irreversible kidney damage.
“I am the breadwinner. I would sell sweets but now with my condition I cannot. I only depend on public hospitals to treat me for free,” said Laban, who is blind.
“I just have a feeling that I might lose one of my kidneys but I thank God the problem was diagnosed immediately the doctors went back to work. I am currently raising money from well-wishers to help me correct my condition,” he said.
The two are just a representation of thousands of Kenyans who are living with scars caused by disruption of services in public hospitals when the health workers went on strike.
Speaking to HealthyNation, George Gibore, secretary-general of Kenya Union of Clinical Officers, said it was not their wish to subject Kenyans to such treatment but frontline workers’ lives are also at risk and deserve the best.
He termed it a shame that the call to duty as the country’s front line soldiers in the fight against Covid-19 was akin to suicide.
He told HealthyNation that they had lost about 30 health workers in the line of duty and the national and county governments are not concerned about their welfare.
For months, the medics agitated for a safe working environment and medical insurance.
“We saw people suffer, we felt and we cared but we are also human and at risk. We need to be protected,” said Gibore.
Seme MP James Nyikal at some point broke down during a Health committee hearing on the plight of healthcare workers.
“I do not like this,” he said, amid sobs. “You cannot do that to your doctors and your health workers. It is not fair. Who said patriotism is suicide? You cannot ask a person to jump into a raging river to show his patriotism.”
He said the country was demanding blood from its healthcare workers, while offering nothing in return. And now, the sector is bleeding out.
“Healthcare workers made huge sacrifices putting their lives and that of their families on the line to deliver services to the public,” said Dr Andrew Were, the president of the Kenya Medical Association.
Scheaffer Okore, a policy analyst, said the infringement of health practitioners’ rights warranted the sentiment. “Kenyan healthcare continues to be let down by the government as the practitioners live in fear of death as a result of doing their job and being forced into making impossible choices,” she said.
The Human Rights Watch recommends that governments should ensure health workers have social protection programmes.