Isolated patients decry KNH ‘laxity’, threaten to walk out of hospital

An isolation room at Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi. PHOTO COURTESY

There was unease at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) Infectious Diseases Unit after patients packed their bags and threatened to storm out of the facility.

A doctor who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the isolated patients were unhappy with the delayed test results and that, at the time of protests on Sunday, they mingled with staff and other workers at the hospital. The doctor said that at one point, police were called in to contain the situation.

On the same day, a woman complained of the state of the hospital, saying they had been confined there since Friday with poor sanitation and lack of communication on when their results would be available.

“They’re not communicating to us or telling us what is expected…they are dealing with us like we are already dying,” she said on the phone.

She later called to say she was at home after being released, but did not divulge the circumstances leading to her discharge.

Asked about the condition of the facility, our source said there were over 100 beds with adequate equipment, including respiratory machines.

The medic added that as at Friday, there was no running water and the sanitation facilities were in a bad state. The wards had normal beds separated by simple curtains.

A woman who was exhibiting symptoms went to the KNH on Sunday, but opted to leave when informed that she would be quarantined. There is no policy on forced isolation of patients and individuals can only be confined after giving their consent.

The government has since explained that the tests took time because medics needed to conduct sophisticated tests to rule out the possibility of having false positives.

Acting Director-General Patrick Amoth said there are 20 patients at the Infectious Diseases Unit (IDU). Three have been confirmed positive, while another three are suspected to have the virus. A further 14 are isolated in the wards, awaiting results.

“The results will be out by midnight. There’s no cause for concern because we cannot confine someone who has not shown symptoms or is not suspected of interacting with someone who has tested positive,” he said.

He added that the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were carried out in the labs and would be shared with the individuals at the appropriate time.

Government Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna said two of the confirmed cases were imported and had close contact with the first patient. The third case was not imported.

Patient zero, a 27-year-old female, is said to have been in contact with 22 people, who have been tested. Two of them were positive. The woman was taken ill seven days after travelling back from the US via London on March 5.

There are 20 countries in Africa with confirmed cases of the virus that has swept through the globe, infecting more than 130,000 people and killing nearly 5,000. But, to date, the continent has been spared the worst of the pandemic.

Only five people have died, all of them in North Africa, with sub-Sahara recording no deaths and very low numbers of confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has encouraged African nations to scale up their emergency preparedness, saying cases can still be kept low with robust response.

“Containment remains the most appropriate strategy for African countries. Apart from South Africa and Algeria, which have clusters of transmission linked to imported cases, the confirmed Covid-19 cases in the African region are sporadic importations from European countries, mainly Italy, France, Germany, and Spain,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti.

She said the regional office is shifting focus from readiness to response.

In countries with confirmed cases, efforts are under way to trace people who may have come into contact with those confirmed to have Covid-19.

Efforts to support countries as they bolster essential early detection and surveillance capabilities at their ports, airports and land crossings are also under way.