Debts hamper hospital service delivery

The two main hospitals in Tana River County are reeling under heavy debts that are hampering effective service delivery.

And like all other health facilities in the County, Hola County Referral and Ngao Sub County Hospitals are facing an acute shortage of essential drugs, especially artemisinin which is used to treat malaria.

The hospitals in Tana River and Tana Delta Sub Counties are so indebted that merchants have stopped supplying them with essential goods and services required for their smooth running.

The County Director of Health Administration Mr. Omar Dhadho told journalists at the Hola hospital on Monday that the Hola hospital owed Tana Water and Sanitation Company (Tawasco) more than S million in unpaid water bills.

In addition, the hospital cannot access fuel and lubricants from local filling stations due to heavy debts owed to the merchants by the County government.

Tawasco restored water supply last week after we gave them a promissory note, but we cannot access fuel and lubricants because the County government owes merchants huge debts, he said. He did not state the amount of money owed.

Mr. Dhadho said although the County government had acquired ambulances, the ambulance service was not effective as some of the vehicles were locked up in garages for non-payment of service fees while those that were available could not be used due to lack of fuel.

He was however optimistic that the new administration under Major (Rtd) Dhadho Godhana would give priority to the health sector in the County and address its woes.

Investigations by Kenya News Agency revealed that patients at the hospital were forced to buy fuel and pay personnel (the driver and two nurses) before they could use the ambulances. Alternatively, they were forced to use ordinary vehicles.

In most cases, patients were referred to hospitals in Malindi, Mombasa and Garissa, but there were usually delays in the process of acquiring means of transport, especially when the patients or their relatives do not have the money for fuel and allowances.

The County Finance Act 2016 capped the fees charged for ambulance services at Sh20, 000 per trip for those travelling to Nairobi, Sh8, 000 for those going to Mombasa, Sh5, 000 to Malindi, Kilifi and Garissa and Sh2, 000 for those moving within the county.

However, patients and their relatives have had to pay more, not to the County treasury, but directly to filling stations (for fuel and lubricants) and to individual’s pockets in form of allowances. A trip to Mombasa and Malindi costs upwards of S0, 000.

Last week, an 86-year old granny fell in a pit latrine at a church in Hola town where she had gone for early morning prayers and was rushed to the Hola hospital.

The medical officer referred Malika Guyato’s case to Malindi Sub County Hospital but it was not until about 7.00 pm when she got an ambulance. She died at about 9.00 pm at Marereni on her way to Malindi.

Investigations have also revealed that Ngao Sub County Hospital was in a state of disrepair, and that the health facility has not received any operational funds since 2013. Members of staff who spoke said they were highly demotivated.

The hospital is badly understaffed with only one medical officer, four clinical officers and a handful of nurses yet it was expected to be a referral hospital for the entire Tana Delta Sub County and parts of neighbouring Lamu and Kilifi counties.

Late last year, the County Assembly passed a motion compelling the County government to urgently address the problems affecting the Ngao Sub County Hospital.

The motion was tabled by Garsen South Member of County Assembly (MCA) Rhoda Katisha Raha, who said the hospital had been neglected for the previous five years.

She claimed that the hospital had been deliberately neglected since smaller health facilities had better equipment and more staff.

The hospital has a modern x-ray machine but the same is not being used because the building where it was installed got burnt, she said while moving the motion.

She called on the County government to rehabilitate the facility and post additional staff so it could offer services befitting its Level Four status.

Source: Kenya News Agency