There was a commotion at the King Fahd County Referral Hospital in Lamu town after a suspected coronavirus patient arrived at the facility to seek treatment.
The patient, an Italian man, had for the past two days been quarantined at Siha Hospital, a private facility in Mpeketoni, Lamu West.
The man, 74, had high fever but his travelling history forced the medics at Siha Hospital to quarantine him earlier this week.
It was established that between March 3 and 4 this year, the Italian travelled by Ethiopian Airlines from Rome, Italy, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He then travelled to Mombasa and finally to Malindi by a local flight, before connecting to Mpeketoni, Lamu by road.
Officials from the Lamu County Health Department visited Siha Hospital and ferried the patient to King Fahd Hospital, which is the only facility with an isolation ward for Covid-19 in the region.
The officials, however, got a rude shock on arrival after angry residents and patients who got wind of the planned transfer blocked them from admitting the patient.
Efforts by county officials and security guards to placate residents and let them go through the hospital gate were fruitless.
The patient was then taken back to Mpeketoni.
Mr Ahmed Bingwa, the resident who blew the whistle on the planned transfer of the Italian patient, asked why the Lamu County Government decided to ferry a patient who had already been quarantined at Siha Hospital. He accused the devolved unit of carelessness in handling the issue.
“They should not treat us like third class citizens. You can’t risk our livess just like that by ferrying a patient suspected to suffer from the disease from Mpeketoni to Lamu island. That’s irresponsibility of the highest order bearing in mind that the patient had already been quarantined at the earlier facility. In fact, we want the county government to come clean about the motive behind the transfer to Lamu town,” said Mr Bingwa.
Another resident, Ms Khadija Salim, said everyone in Lamu was shocked when they heard that an Italian was being quarantined at Mpeketoni as a suspected coronavirus patient.
“We’re informed that the man has high fever and many other signs relating to coronavirus. The results of the samples which were taken to Nairobi have not even been released and yet the County Government decides to ferry the patient to Lamu island. That’s being careless. We will not allow that to happen at all,” said Ms Salim.
The incident also saw a number of people storm the King Fahd Hospital and whisk away their patients admitted at the facility over Covid-19 fears.
Some patients were also reported to have left their hospital beds and scampered for safety after hearing that a patient suspected to have coronavirus was being admitted. It took the intervention of nurses in charge to reassure patients in various wards that their health and safety was guaranteed.
However, speaking to the Nation shortly after the incident, Lamu County Youth Leader and activist Francis Mugo condemned the residents’ action, saying they had overreacted.
He appealed to Lamu residents and Kenyans at large to change their perception of coronavirus patients.
“We need to change our attitude towards persons suspected to be suffering from coronavirus. It’s inhumane to deny a patient the right to treatment. People are turning against fellow human beings just because they showed a symptom or two,” said Mr Mugo.
NO CAUSE FOR ALARM
When contacted by the Nation over the matter, Lamu County Health Executive Dr Anne Gathoni said there is no cause for alarm as the patient is well taken care of.
She, however, declined to comment on where the patient is now.
“People should be patient. Remember, this still remains a suspected case of coronavirus until results are out. The patient is in isolation but he’s doing alright. There’s no cause for worry,” she said.
The man's results are expected to be out by Monday, according to an official at Siha Hospital where he had earlier been quarantined.