The opening of a haemophilia centre at the Murang’a County Referral Hospital has come as relief to thousands of people who have this condition.
This becomes the fourth centre to be established in a public hospital and will serve the entire Central region. The three others are Kenyatta, Kisumu and Mombasa hospitals.
Haemophilia is an inherited bleeding disorder where the blood does not clot properly. It is caused when blood does not have enough clotting factor. A clotting factor is a protein in blood that controls bleeding. However, many people with this condition do not know until they get a blood test or fall victim to an accident or during surgery.
The condition results in people bleeding longer after an injury, easy bruising, and an increased risk of bleeding inside joints or the brain.
According to Jane Mugacha, the medic in charge of the centre and the paediatric ward, this condition mostly affects men while women are carriers. Sadly, this condition is genetically inherited and has no cure.
With little information available, the condition has silently been claiming the lives of thousands of people.
Some parts of Murang’a and Kirinyaga are among areas with high numbers of haemophiliac people.
Mugacha said the most common types of haemophilia are types A and B, patients are given factors eight and nine respectively to control bleeding.
In the past, access to these factors had been a big challenge as they were only available in two private hospitals with a single dose going for between Sh200,000 and Sh500,000.
The high cost has been a limiting factor for many people to access the vaccine without which their lives are at risk.
The four centres solely rely on vaccine donations from other countries. At times there is an acute shortage forcing the centres to only cater to patients in critical condition.
“We are giving the vaccines for free and people are coming from as far as Kiambu and Embu to get the factors, but we only give them a single dose or two because we do not have an adequate supply,” she said.
Mugacha was introduced to haemophilia care in 2010 by Maureen Miruka who lost a child to haemophilia and went ahead to establish Jose Memorial Haemophilia Society, named after her son.
Mugacha underwent training in South Africa sponsored by the World Haemophilia Foundation through the Kenya Haemophilia Foundation.
She says there is a need to conduct massive sensitisation on this condition, saying that it is one of the most misdiagnosed conditions in the health sector.
“Internal bleeding is the most dangerous thing for such people. With slight trauma, they start bleeding and might cause damage to internal organs” remarked Mugacha.
“There is very little information known about this condition and experts are yet to unearth its cause,” she said. The vaccine, once given, only works for hours and this means a patient need constant injections of the clotting factor.
In developed countries such as South Africa, she said, haemophiliac people are given enough factors to take home to inject themselves on a daily basis.
Two people have successfully gone through the therapy, though they are bound to pass the condition to their offsprings. She said there are plans to take two people to South Africa for the same therapy to see if it works.
Mugacha also said the Kenya Haemophilia Foundation plans to table a Bill in Parliament to seek more support for haemophilic patients from the government.
“We want to push the government to address this condition and allocate funds to cater for the patients who should also be put in a special category as there is a limit to activities they can engage in,” she said.
With better facilitation, she said, patients will have access to factors to inject themselves daily. She lamented that the Kenya Revenue Authority takes long to clear the factors at points of entry.