Sonko, officials differ on cause of infants’ deaths

Kinyuru Munuhe @kinyurumunuhe

Claims of power wars, sabotage and lack of requisite facilities at the troubled Pumwani Maternity Hospital came to the fore even as Nairobi governor Mike Sonko and his administration appeared to be working at cross-purposes.

Yesterday, Nairobi County Secretary Peter Kariuki, acting Health County executive Veska Kangogo and Health chief officer Mahat Jimale said none of the 11 infants died of negligence.

They also committed to adopt fair administrative process in dealing with the situation, saying no employee will be victimised.

“None of the deaths occurred due to lack of emergency services. As you have heard, there could have been better operational efficiency. There was a doctor and none of those deaths occurred due to circumstances that could not have been taken care in the hospital,” said Kangogo.

When he made a surprise visit to the hospital on Monday, Sonko announced that he had suspended the hospital’s board and management. Kariuki said “no one will be victimised” over the deaths.

Kangogo said the 11 babies died  because of various causes including being underweight at birth and prolonged labour pains, a position that contradicts Sonko’s assertion that they died of laxity and medical negligence.

According to a situational report of September 14 to 17  submitted to Sonko by Medical Superintendent Dr Leonard Okoko, the holding room at the hospital had 11 bodies.

Four bodies were to be transferred to City Mortuary on September 14 while bodies of six children who died over the weekend were to be taken on Monday. One body was yet to be documented.

However, insiders say there are no ambulances to ferry bodies to the mortuary. It emerged that the facility has only two ambulances, one attached to students at the facility who are ferried daily to Kiambu Hospital while the other has broken down.

Patients who require referral services are forced to book their own ambulances from the facilities to Kenyatta National Hospital.

According to Pumwani Hospital human resource records, personnel shortage has also affected service delivery.  For example, the labour ward has six nurses per shift whereas the recommended number is 10.

Overall, the hospital has seven medical doctors and five consultant doctors. One consultant doctor is on annual leave while another is on sick leave.

In the obstetric gynecologist  section, there is one medical officer in every 12-hour shift. Theatre II is run by consultants who operate on cold cases or elective Caesarian sections.  Pumwani which is the largest maternity hospital in East and Central Africa records 60-100 live births per day.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji has ordered a probe into the deaths of infants at the facility.  He directed Director of Criminal Investigations to submit a probe report in seven days.

“The DPP and DCI have held an emergency meeting to deliberate on the matter. The DPP has directed the DCI to urgently commence investigations into the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the bodies and submit a progress report within seven days.” said Haji.

Detectives from Buruburu Police Station yesterday camped at the hospital for the second day grilling hospital management and nurses. The probe is being undertaken by a multi-agency team headed by the DCI.

And last night in statement, Sonko suspended Kariuki, Kangogo, Mahat, and county Attorney Lydia Kamboka for  insubordination over the  Pumwani hospital saga.

He picked  other officers to act in their place. Pauline Kahiga( county secretary, Charles Kerich(Health executive), Mohamed Sale (Health chief officer and David Aseko(County attorney).

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