County soldiers on in fight against Covid-19

It started from Wuhan- China last year but today, Covid-19 affects nearly all countries of the world in one way or the other.

Kenya has had its share of this pandemic even as it strives to combat it using various methods including vaccinating her population.

Being a new disease, Kenya was at a loss when it conformed her first case in March 2020. The confusion at national level cascaded to the counties.

The country did not have isolation wards; social distancing was a new vocabulary in town and the price of surgical face masks shot up.

The Ministry of Health reported on August 29th that over 4,710 patients had succumbed to the virus since the country recorded its first case.

MoH said that cumulatively, 2,362,524 Kenyans had been tested for the virus, generating 234,952 confirmed cases and 220,953 recoveries.

In August, Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital (KTRH) received a patient from Homa Bay County, whose symptoms clearly showed a case of coronavirus.  

Her condition caused anxiety among staff members, given that she was expectant and on oxygen support owing to Covid-19 complications.

Marian Awour Adumbo was fighting for her life after she successfully gave birth despite being on oxygen support.

Unfortunately, Mrs Adumbo succumbed, even after medics did all that was possible to save her life. 

Kisii County Public Health Director Dr Richard Onkware said the nurse died after about two weeks of battling with the fangs of the Coronavirus.  

“We appreciate Kisii for taking it up. However, moving forward, cases such as that should be handled in counties where they are confirmed. Counties should have the capacities of handling their Covid-19 cases,” said Health CS Mutahi Kagwe as he condoled with Mrs Adumbo’s family.  

Authorities in Kisii says that over 2280 health care workers have been sensitized on the dangers of COVID-19 disease and 400 health workers have been further trained on infection, prevention, control and case management.

The county also embarked on the production of masks and sanitizers in local Vocational Training Centers (VTCs).  

Dr. Onkware thanked the national government for the support to mitigate the pandemic; Ksh156 million conditional grant, drugs and medicines worth 53 million under the UHC program, utility vehicle, Recruitment of additional health care workers, provision of PPEs, one Ventilator, 5 oxygen delivery systems and other assorted items.  

The outbreak of COVID-19 has been a major test to the country’s health system, particularly the counties, whose key responsibilities include provision of healthcare to their residents.  

The constitution puts a high bar on the 47 devolved units in the country to prove their capability in the provision of quality, affordable and efficient medical care.  

The Covid-19 pandemic came with serious challenges, not only to the Kenyan healthcare management system but many developed counties, not less, the United States of America, Italy, Britain, Germany, among others, to successfully deal with the fast spreading coronavirus.

Kisii County has continued to provide response to emerging cases from within and those from neighboring counties of Migori, Homabay and Narok Counties.   

Governor James Ongwae dreams of turning Kisii County into a medical tourism destination in the Lake Economic Bloc region.

The county has ambitiously worked to modernize the county’s largest medical facility, KTRH.  

Today, the KTRH is a one-stop-shop for medical and healthcare needs following its transformation by the County leadership.  

National government officials who toured the county were impressed by the successful transformation of health services in Kisii, and especially the national inspectors of the Covid-19 preparedness across counties.  

CS Kagwe and his Interior counterpart Dr. Fred Matiang’i lauded governor Ongwae for the high-level of preparedness in dealing with COVID-19 pandemic when they toured the county in August 2020. 

And as counties were required to establish at-least 300 beds in the wake of the rising cases of Covid-19 infections, Kisii had already put up a new 250 bed, three storey male ward facility making the county to have a total of 388 beds at KTRH and other outlying facilities for Covid-19 purposes.   

“I want to thank Governor Ongwae for the strong leadership he has shown and the ongoing development works he has initiated. There are areas in the country where certain things are not moving but you can see for yourself that a lot of good work is happening in Kisii because of very strong collaboration between the county and the national government,” said Dr Matiang’i.  

The county purchases various items from KEMSA in its efforts to handle Covid-19 cases.  

Millions of shillings have been directed toward the purchase of ICU Ventilators, PPEs i.e. N95 masks, surgical masks 3 ply, surgical gloves, examination gloves, disposable caps, disposable coveralls with shoe covers, Sodium Hypochlorite 5-6%, chlorine powder, face shields, heavy duty gloves, gumboots, color coded waste bin liners, among others to ensure medical workers do not experience hitches when serving patients.

The county also bought medical equipment including patient monitors, oxygen concentrators, suction machines, and intravenous infusion pumps, endotracheal tubes, and defibrillators, laryngoscopes with blades (adults and kids), ICU beds, bedside lockers and mattresses.

The county government has also operationalized a toll free 24 hour call Centre (‪0800721133‬) to enable the public report any suspected case or get Covid-19 information.

“As a result, even as we scale up our preparedness to tackle any eventuality or outbreak by upgrading our health facilities, public involvement and awareness is increasingly becoming necessary as a measure to prevent the apparent social stigma while encouraging home-based care for emerging cases of the Covid-19,” said Mr Ongwae.  

Soon after the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the county, Ongwae mobilized his staff to establish a County Emergency Response Team, which he co-chaired with the County Commissioner.  The committee is in place to this day.

It comprises the National Security Team, Health Professionals, senior officers in the National and County Governments, the business community, other stakeholders from our religious groupings, market committees and boda boda sector.  

Each Sub County has an Emergency Response Team co-chaired by the Sub County Administrators and Deputy County Commissioners. These teams are engaged with surveillance and public outreach in the campaigns against Covid-19.  

The Sub County Response Teams, the Chiefs, Assistant Chiefs and Nyumba Kumi have all been involved in the fight against this pandemic.  

In collaboration with Public Health Officers and Disease Surveillance Officers, they have promptly reported cases of persons exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms and also helped a lot in contact tracing.  

The Gusii people are very industrious, hardworking and have invested and settled throughout the world. When the corona pandemic hit the world, there was an influx of people from the diaspora back into the county.  

The team played a key role in identifying the new arrivals who were quickly rounded up and put into self or mandatory quarantine to undergo testing for Covid -19 before being released. 

The county also established additional isolation wards at the Sub-counties including; Getembe dispensary, Mwamogesa dispensary, Kiogoro health center, Kenyerere health center and Misesi health center with an additional 100 beds, collectively.  

The installation of an oxygen purification and supply system came in handy during this Covid 19 pandemic management.

Governor James Ongwae (R) and KTRH CEO Dr Enock Ondari inspecting a Covid-19 isolation centre at the hospital. PHOTO/Courtesy.

It supports the ICU operations where oxygen is of high priority. Equally, to cater for the frontline medical personnel who are handling the Covid -19 patients, the 50 unit doctors hostel has been converted into an isolation centre for those who might contract the virus.  

The oxygen purifying plant has capacity to supply packed oxygen to health facilities within the county and a surplus that can be accessed by neighboring counties who may be in need.  

“We also have a strong ambulatory services offered by our department of health services that can be relied on, incase we experience a spike of Covid 19 within the county,” says County Executive Member for Health, Mrs Sarah Omache.  

Apart from expansion of Sub-county hospitals for Covid19 preparedness, Governor Ongwae has launched several healthcare related development initiatives across all the nine Sub-Counties.  

Today, development of the new 100 bed Marani Sub-County hospital in Kitutu Chache North Constituency is complete with modern amenities including a casualty wing, laboratories and theatres.  

The reinvigorated facility that was previously served by a single doctor, and with only 20 beds now has five doctors, a mortuary, and an expanded Out Patient Department. The facility is set for grand opening later in the year.  

Other major infrastructural developments are underway at Nduru Level 4 hospital in South Mugirango in which a three storey 100-bed capacity wing with theatres and other amenities is being built.  

The county has also undertaken infrastructural upgrades at Kenyenya, Ogembo, Keumbu, Iyabe, Iranda and Gesusu Sub-County hospitals where residents are able to access surgical, X ray and other medical and pharmaceutical services.  

Vaccines are given at the health facilities for free, as directed and facilitated by the national government.

According to the county Covid-19 situation report released on August 31st, Kisii had recorded 2540 cases since the first case was reported on May 15th, 2020.
This includes 1497 male and 1042 female. 137 people have died so far.

“As of 26th August, 2021, a total of 21,480 and 8982 received the 1st and 2nd dose of the Covid-19 vaccine,” the report said.

It highlighted enforcement of Covid-19 regulations and requirements, stigmatizatiom and discrimination of suspected patients, tracing positive cases who give wrong phone numbers among the challenges being faced.

“Covid-19 deaths from private hospitals not reported,” the report added.

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Mr. Araka is the pioneer reporter and editor at The Scholar. His satirical segment, The Idler's Corner is very popular with our readers. He is also a published novelist and biographer.


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