County governments do not have one of the finest records for delivering infrastructure projects on time.
But the completion of a new Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Murang’a Level Five Hospital, two days before the ambitious 21-day deadline, is a good example of local engineering at its best.
The rush to complete the facility was driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is a remarkable feat of planning and execution by county engineers and an army of youthful workers since the idea was conceptualised a few days after the country started reporting cases of Covid-19 in mid-March.
Some three weeks ago, the site where the 35-bed facility stands was an empty plot. There was scepticism that the Governor Mwangi wa Iria-led administration would complete the facility on time.
But the county boss remained bullish, noting it would be completed within the deadline and dutifully posted photos on social media daily updating Kenyans on the progress of the ongoing construction work.
He attributed the success of putting up the facility in 19 days to hiring local expertise and labour. The county boss argued that not only did it save time, but funds as well.
“Had we floated a tender for the work, it would have cost hundreds of millions, but we opted to use our own engineers and local labour. We spent about Sh25 million on the building,” the county boss told the Sunday Nation on Thursday.
But despite the rushed intensity of the process, might the whole experience offer some lessons for other counties in the future?
The man tasked with constructing the hospital from scratch was Transport executive Amos Njoroge. He was one of those who helped plan and design the facility.
And when the building’s foundation stone was laid on April 11, Eng Njoroge knew he would be one of those put on the spotlight for the rushed construction.
But he said construction guidelines were followed for a strong structure. “The building has all the structural elements, columns, beams and we have not compromised on the quality,” he said, adding it was a daunting task.
The county engineers supervised the project as they hired casual labourers, as many as 200, working in two shifts daily.
Occasionally, heavy rains forced the workers out of the site. “The challenge was in the sheer scale of the task ahead,” he explained.
“But we had to accelerate the work done daily. For instance, we used the rapid hardening cement whose curing period is shorter. Had we not had two shifts, it would have taken at least 42 days,” Mr Njoroge said.
On Friday, the unit was fitted with beds, physiologic monitors which display health variables of a patient and wall oxygen supplies. There are also a dozen wired plug sockets available behind every bed.
Governor Wa Iria said his resolve is to ensure that locals get proper health services.
“The ICU is complete, fully equipped, highly qualified staff recruitment done and the facility is now ready to receive its first patient. We have also gone further and renovated the rest of Murang’a Level Five Hospital to ensure we have a proper facility which will play a critical role in the coronavirus war,” he said.
“One day in future, Kamau, who fed ballast to the mixer, Njoroge who added sand, Mwangi who added cement, Waithera who added water and Ng’ang’a who pushed the concrete full wheelbarrow to the slab, will all look back and feel proud of being part of history being made,” he added.
Some 35 nurses will be deployed to work in the ICU unit with more medics expected to be hired in coming weeks.
“We will have one nurse for each patient as we start. But since these are patients on intensive care, additional nurses can be deployed depending on the care needed,” the governor said.
The county has partnered with The Aga Khan Hospital to assist in operations. And in a partnership with the local Kenya Medical Teaching Centre, the county will sponsor 20 nurses to undergo the training on management of ICU once the crisis is under control.
The hospital's Medical Superintendent, Mr Leonard Gikera, said at least eight patients every month require ICU services.
“We’ve been transferring them to Kenyatta National Hospital or other private facilities. This new critical care unit is going to be a game changer. We will treat our patients locally,” Dr Gikera said.