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Pregnancy, kidney problems leading killers at KNH

Pregnancy-related complications killed the highest number of patients at the country’s largest referral hospital last year, data shows.

Kidney ailments, on the other hand, remained the most dangerous, killing 47 per cent of all renal patients referred to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

Records of hospital admissions and deaths from KNH in 2014 and 2015 showed that while the number of patients that sought medical care from the hospital for renal conditions was low, the mortality rate was the highest.

In 2014 and 2015 alone, 18,294 patients with pregnancy and birth related conditions were admitted to the hospital.


While pregnancy and birth conditions killed the highest number of people, chances of dying were not as high as for those with renal issues, with the mortality rate standing at 38 per cent.

Even before looking at the data, head of Renal Unit at KNH, Dr John Ngigi, drew a relationship between fatalities that arose from pregnancy and renal conditions, and why these two conditions were the leading killers at the hospital.

Dr Ngigi said he had noticed that there were many women who were wheeled into his unit with acute obstetric kidney failure.

Acute means the kidney problem arose from an unrelated medical condition that the patient had visited the facility for, such as bleeding, anaemia or severe cases of malaria.

Some of the cases ended up in the intensive care unit or on dialysis because of acute renal failure.

The kidney specialist pointed out to a weak referral system as the cause for acute obstetric renal failure.

He said among many other health issues, the manner in which women with pregnancy complications were referred to the facility could be blamed for the acute renal failure, that costs some of them their lives.


“Acute obstetric renal condition is not something we should be dealing with now but instead, they are increasing,” he said on phone, adding that “no woman should go through that because it is absolutely possible to prevent.”

Dr Ngigi said KNH is always prepared for chronic kidney problems.

His concern comes barely a week after a senior surgeon at KNH lamented that the country’s lack of a referral policy, especially after devolution, will endanger the lives of patients who are transferred from one hospital to another.

“There ought to be some laid down procedures on how each patient, with what conditions, needs to be treated… as per now, a doctor can write you a letter telling you to come to KNH and will not address the issue of what transport you will use to get here, how fast, will using a bus hurt you more?” he said.