Two boxes of serviette laid empty on the table. All used up. The committee room remained in studious silence for close to two hours as emotions ran high.
With every passing minute of narration, the sound of serviette pieces leaving the boxes was the only movement during the Senate Health Committee meeting as tears flowed freely.
Even men struggled to hold their emotions, eyes welled with tears threatening to let loose, as their thumbs and index fingers became increasingly busy as they fought back the tears.
A grief-stricken Ms Judith Muthoni, the mother to baby Travis Maina who lost his life at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) last month with a fork jembe lodged in his head, narrated her 24-hour ordeal before her baby breathed his last.
She recounted how she was left down in the dumps for 14 hours as she watched her son battle through the minutes and hours that seemed like eternity before he could be wheeled to the theatre room.
Sh20,000 stood between her and the life of her child. If only she could raise the amount then probably, it would have been a different story for her two-year-old son.
However, Ms Muthoni had managed to pay Sh1,260 for admission from the Sh1,650 she had borrowed.
They had arrived at KNH at 6.30 pm but were not attended to until the following day at 1 pm when the baby was taken to the theatre.
According to her, the doctors at the national referral facility told them not to give the child any food or drink for the duration.
Unable to hold tears any longer, she was overcome with emotions and left her sister and aunt to Travis, Lucy Muthoni, to continue with the narration.
Ms Lucy told the committee that the child was received at the emergency department but had to wait until 10pm to be attended to and this saw a doctor only bandage the head.
Start of any treatment
But when she went to see the doctor in charge of what next for the patient, she was asked for Sh20,500 for surgery, an amount she did not have.
While there, she had to borrow Sh1,650 for the admission form so that the child could be admitted to facilitate the start of any treatment.
“At Room 4, the doctor was just dusting the table and casually asked if I had Sh20, 500 for the surgery. I told him that we didn’t have that kind of money but wanted the child to be treated first. We sat on plastic chairs carrying the baby for the whole night,” said Lucy.
It was not until 8am the following day when the same doctor came to see baby Travis and told them to prepare him for theatre. But this was not until 1pm when he was actually wheeled to the theatre room.
“We went to ask what was happening and we were told that there was another emergency they were working on and so we had to wait,” she said.
Even after taking the child to the theatre, the committee heard, it took more than two hours for the surgery to commence.
Getting impatient, they went back at 3pm to inquire why the long wait but were told to wait for another two hours.
At around 4pm, Travis’ mother left for the city centre to buy clothes to dress Travis after the surgery only to receive a call that the baby had passed on.
Baby Travis had been taken to Thika Level 5 hospital where a scan was performed on him before being put on a drip.
The child had first been rushed to a nearby chemist after the incident before being taken to Thika Level 5 hospital.
They were then advised to take Travis to KNH and were provided with an ambulance. At 5pm, they left the county referral hospital for a one-hour-thirty-minutes journey to KNH.
The Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago-led committee laid the blame of Travis’ death on the sorry state of public hospitals in the country, especially in the counties, which they termed “brick and mortar without skilled personnel and equipment”.
“Going for 14 hours without getting medical attention is serious. We expected KNH to do better. We have to get to the bottom of this,” said Mr Mandago.
He said KNH will have to produce the medic in charge at the time Travis was taken to the hospital, failure to which the hospital management will be accountable.
“They have to identify the doctor who asked the mother of the patient to pay Sh20,500 before treatment,” he said.
Senator Hamida Kibwana said Travis’ case should have been a direct ICU matter failing to understand how KNH treated it casually.
“Doctors must prioritise saving lives rather than money. The practicing licence for the doctor should be withdrawn,” said Senator Maria Shiekh Omar, the committee vice chairperson.
For his part, Senator Raphael Chimera stated the committee will propose radical recommendations to address cases of negligence in hospitals, saying there are many such cases which are not reported.
“We have to get to the bottom of this issue to set an example to negligent medics. There are cases of doctors not reporting to work and instead run private clinics but continue to draw salaries from taxpayers,” said Mr Chimera.
Kiambu Senator Karungo Thang’wa decried the sorry state of county referral hospitals which he said do not even have neurosurgeons or ICUs.
“Listening to the mother, there was negligence on the part of the hospitals she visited. All those involved must answer to that. Let this incident be the last,” he said.
The committee will today ( Tuesday) meet the family of the late Maureen Onyango, a mother who lost her life due to alleged negligence at Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital and also Ms Ruth, mother to the late Edward Otieno who also lost his life at the same hospital following a road accident.
Next Tuesday, the committee will meet Thika Level 5 hospital management and Kiambu County officials.