EDITORIAL: Cure ICU beds headache that is threatening KNH

The Kenyatta National Hospital. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The Kenyatta National Hospital. FILE PHOTO | NMG    

That a patient died at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), a well-known referral facility not only in Kenya but in the region, due to lack of intensive care unit beds (ICU) is a matter of life and death.

It is worse that the hospital, possibly the facility of last resort, can advise a patient and her people to seek treatment elsewhere as stated by the acting director of medical services Peter Masinde.

While asking a patient or people accompanying them to seek help in another hospital may be a normal procedure, it should dawn on KNH that those going to public hospitals, more often than not, do so due to lack of funds and belief that it has the best personnel.

Again, which other public hospital would have the necessary ICU facilities and talent if a renown referral centre like KNH did not have them?

It would be expected that in such cases KNH, thanks to its crisis or partnership code, would organise with partner hospitals for a seamless referral, and not expecting the distraught family members to take charge.

It is disheartening that a referral hospital of KNH’s stature could lack ICU beds, which basically are synonymous with referrals.

Worse, it says while it should have more than 60 beds, only 31 are functional, showing that these special wards were functioning at half capacity.

According to Dr Masinde even if the 61 beds were in use, the hospital that receives an average 2,500 patients daily — against 1,800 beds it is stuck with for years — would still be operating below the standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for critical care.

According to the WHO, these wards use should not exceed 70 per cent occupancy at any time. This means KNH’s case is a disaster in the making, going by the huge number of patients streaming into the facility daily.

Dilapidated infrastructure, the hospital says in its 2018-2023 strategic plan, is one of the impediments to its stellar performance.

This paralysis did not start yesterday and it will require the hospital’s board and management to assess the situation, determine this consistent erosion, and, urgently, come up with a solution.