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Concern rises as patients keep off public and private hospitals

Wards, triages and hallways in both public and private hospitals are increasing becoming empty, as patients keep off health facilities in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, the Nation can reveal.

A spot checks across the country Tuesday revealed reduced activity at health centres, with some medical staff whiling away time.

Both inpatient and outpatient traffic have reduced by more than half in some counties, amid mounting fears over the health conditions of patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, asthma and diabetes.

In Nakuru, hospitals continue to record extremely low traffic, as patients fear coming into contact with suspected coronavirus patients, contaminated surfaces and healthcare workers in isolation wards.

Health County Executive Kariuki Gichuki expressed fears that a lot of people could be silently suffering at home.

“We are afraid many people could be wrongly treating some illnesses at home,” Dr Gichuki said.

“Erroneous prescription of medicines bought over the counter can be devastating especially to those who are not sure of the kind of disease they are treating,” he added.

In Homa Bay, where one case of coronavirus has been reported, fewer patients are seeking medical services at the Homa Bay Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Records from the hospital show that the number of outpatients received daily has dropped from an average of 250 per day to 100 since Covid-19 struck.

A similar situation was observed at the Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital, one of the busiest hospitals in Nyanza region.

According to the hospital’s director Geoffrey Otomu, inpatient and outpatient traffic have reduced by 40 per cent in the last two months.

In Mandera, there are no longer long queues at the outpatient bay, lab and registration desk as witnessed before Covi-19 cases were reported in the border county.

“Our isolation centre is at the main hospital and this to some extent has made some patients keep off the facility,” said Dr Hassan Abdalla, Medical Superintend at Mandera County Referral Hospital.

The situation is no different at the Meru Referral Hospital where Chief Executive Officer james Kirimi, said both the outpatient and inpatient departments had few numbers.

Here, outpatient numbers have declined from an average of 500 patients to about 100 in a day.

“The number of patients in the wards has also declined from 450 to 270. However, the casualty remains busy. This is a dramatic decline and the question is where the patients are going because all services are open,” Dr Kirimi said.

At the Mama Lucy Hospital in Nairobi, doctors told the Nation that TB centre was experiencing dwindling traffic.

In Wajir County, which recorded its first case of the virus at the weekend, Wajir Referral Hospital administrator Roble Ibrahim said the drop in the numbers is expected to continue after they suspended all the outpatient services from Sunday. This was after facility was designated as the main isolation centre.

Patients who spoke to the Nation said they were afraid of contracting the virus.

Mr Njuguna Mwangi, 70, a patient with kidney complication who was undergoing dialysis at least twice a week at Kenol Hospital in Muranga, said he had reduced his sessions to one.

Given his age and his failing kidneys, the chances of the Karega village resident becoming severely ill if he contracts the virus are high.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, Ms Joan Jebet said since the outbreak of the virus, she has resorted to visiting chemists instead of the hospital.

“I usually go to Race Course Hospital but since the virus outbreak, I go to the chemist for over the counter medication,” she said.

“The way the hospital is now is very scary. The first step is having your temperature checked then the one metre social distance rule. My fear is in case, I exhibit some symptoms of the virus, my family and I will be quarantined,” said Ms Jebet.

County Health Executive Kiprono Chepkok said most patients with chronic diseases were not attending clinic and were likely to relapse.

“Patients with diabetes and hypertension are the most affected. They do not attend their clinics as scheduled. It is worrying,” he said.

Some medical experts fear more people are dying from untreated emergencies than from the virus.

Concern is that cancer medication cannot wait for containment of the virus, it is still killing people and now probably even more with the closing of Nairobi borders.