Dickens Wasonga @PeopleDailyKe
Only four of the 13 beds at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital’s (JOOTRH) Intensive Care Unit (ICU) are operational, People Daily has established.
That means Kisumu county’s main referral hospital is straining to provide ICU services.
County Executive Committee (CEC) member for Health Rosemary Obara attributes the problem to underfunding.
Responding to allegations that patients were being asked to buy supplies, which include expensive medicine, Dr Obara said the unit was operating on a slim budget.
“High costs involved in operating the critical care unit and a shortage of personnel had caused ‘occasional hitches’,” Obara told People Daily. She said the unit has only two specialist doctors instead of at least three.
According to the CEC, the unit has eight operational ICU beds with a capacity of 14 patients. An ideal number to boost performance would be at least 20 ICU beds, according to her.
The unit also has 20 nurses, mainly specialised but should have 50 more, she said. She suggest that for the county o offer the critical care as required, it would have to establish, in each sub county hospital, at least four ICU beds, fully equipped .
“We would need to have four functioning ICU beds in all the sub-counties with monitors, ventilators, imaging machines to conduct various tests, sterilising machines and infusion equipment,’’ said Dr Obara.
One ICU bed, according to the CEC would cost an estimated Sh300,000. Patients seeking services especially victims of road accidents have to queue for days to be assisted or forced to seek services at private hospitals that are expensive and way above the means of many people.
Dr Obara said the health department cannot hire more medical personnel to bridge the gap even in other units because the county currently has a problem with the public service board that is mandated to recruit staff.
“Because of the problem, we can’t hire. Many staff members have left due to natural attrition and pursuit for greener pastures while others retired but are yet to be replaced,’’ she said. The other challenge is reimbursement from NHIF.
“The ICU is a heavy investment. Our main challenge is that reimbursement from the National Health Insurance Fund is too low to sustain the facility and we are occasionally faced with financial constraints, which we usually go out of our way to try and meet,” Dr Obara said.
According to the CEC, the NHIF reimbursements are Sh2,000 a day per patient. “With the kind of expenses JOOTRH incur, anything below Sh10, 000 a day is too low,” she said.