Nairobi Hospital says it's overwhelmed by surge in Corona virus admissions
Kenya's capital could be staring at a Covid-19 crisis as one of the isolation centres, Nairobi Hospital, is struggling to accommodate new patients.
In a statement on Tuesday, hospital CEO Allan Pamba said as at July 4, the hospital had admitted 164 patients with 22 requiring intensive care admissions.
"Over this past weekend, the management faced a big challenge to stretch the hospital's capacity to accommodate a sudden rise in cases presenting at the accident and Emergency department with suspected Covid-19," he said.
He noted that the country is experiencing a surge in the number of positive symptomatic patients. Virus cases rose to 8,250 on Tuesday with 164 confirmed fatalities. With the eased restrictions, the countries cases are expected to rise exponentially.
Pamba hopes that the hospital partnership with the UN will pull through which will enable establishment of a facility in 5-8 weeks aid in solving the low capacity problem.
This comes even as the hospital improved admissions from a low 35 per cent bed occupancy in mid-April to a high 63 per cent in July.
"With this rising challenge, we are hopeful that the hospital board will support the next phase of the TNH-UN Covid-19 care partnership. This will give us a 150-bed state of the art Coronavirus hospital at the old nursing school," he said.
According to him, the facility will have a 25 ICU bed capacity with ECMO capacity and its own operating theater.
Concerns over the capacity of hospitals in Nairobi to take in more Covid-19 patients are rising amid reports the sick are being turned away from the facilities. A work colleague to one of the patients who tested positive for the virus on Thursday painted a grim picture of what is happening to newly-diagnosed cases in the city.
She said when her colleague tested positive; his contacts were shared with the Ministry of Health so that he could be picked up and taken to an isolation facility.
“Ministry officials called but they could not get space for him at the Kenyatta National Hospital, Mbagathi Hospital or even Kenyatta University Hospital. He was told all the facilities were full,” she said.
Despite having a severe headache and chest pains, the sick man was told to go back home as health officials worked to get him space into the overwhelmed system. By Sunday evening, he was still waiting for instructions on how his condition would be managed, even as the situation worsened.
A nurse at the Mbagathi isolation unit yesterday said all their beds are occupied, and they are worried about the rising cases, adding that they had been getting serious cases, especially of people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, cancer and hypertension.
The nurse said even the 11-bed space that had been allocated to pregnant mothers who test positive for the virus were already taken up. “It is worrying. People need to start taking this disease very seriously. I get worried when I hear people saying Covid-19 is a hoax. They just need to come and see how overwhelmed the isolation facilities are,” the nurse said, adding that they were focusing on very serious cases such as the ones who need oxygen.
"It is a fantastic opportunity to migrate Covid-19 care completely from the Main Hospital Campus in the next eight weeks," he said.
Hospitals are running out of space in Intensive Care Units due to the Covid-19 pandemic that is spreading fast across the country. The facilities are fast getting overwhelmed with critically ill patients that need admission, forcing hospitals to set aside other rooms for the patients.
This is despite the Ministry of Health introducing home-based care last month to reduce the number of patients admitted to hospitals due to coronavirus.
The development comes as the number of Covid-19 cases continue to increase drastically, with the peak estimated to come in August. Yesterday, the country recorded 247 cases (164 males and 83 females) after testing 4,147 samples, bringing the caseload to 7,188 from cumulative samples of 180,206.
A source at the Aga Khan Hospital who is not authorised to speak to the media revealed that all the five Covid-19 ICU beds are full while the Nairobi Hospital, with eight beds, now only has three left.
The Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral, and Research Hospital, with a 24-bed capacity, can only admit eight patients at once because of the patient-nurse ratio.
There have been reports that even private institutions are now turning away patients, with several people claiming that Nairobi Hospital has been telling them they are full to capacity in the last few days. “We called Nairobi Hospital when my father was having trouble breathing. They said they were full and not taking any Covid-19 patient,” said Shem Ogolla yesterday.
And indeed, a nurse at the institution confirmed that they had been sending patients away and telling them to seek help from public institutions.
Dr Allan Pamba, CEO of Nairobi Hospital, however, said that indeed people who were calling were being told that there is no space, but it was from internal miscommunication.
He said their hospital has a 47-bed capacity for people with Covid-19, and they currently have 17 unoccupied beds.
“Over the last 48 hours, we have got many cases of Covid-19 patients who need to be admitted, but we are not overwhelmed yet,” he said. The Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi issued a statement on social media saying they have beds set aside for Covid-19 patients and that they were not overwhelmed.
Government spokesman Cyrus Oguna yesterday said they were working with medics to ensure patients who had been admitted to hospitals but were not seriously ill, are discharged for home-based care to free up space for others who are seriously sick.
The Ministry of Health has denied knowledge of anyone turned away from hospital, saying there were still beds available in Nairobi, and that they would do an audit to establish the number of unoccupied beds.