Rashid Yusuf sits quietly on a bench outside the social worker’s office at Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi lost in thought.
Mr Yusuf was expecting good news when he brought his expectant wife Shamsia Ngina to the hospital on Monday night.
“When my wife began experiencing labour pains at our Majengo residence, I drove her to the hospital,” he says.
His wife was admitted at the facility. He returned home to wait for the good news which was not to be. Her labour process was a long, protracted affair that ultimately ended in tragedy.
“At around 2am, my relatives who were taking care of her told me she began to call for help,” the 51-year-old taxi driver says.
Ms Shamsia survived, but her baby did not. By the time the doctor and nurses arrived at her bedside, some minutes past 3am, her baby was dead.
She was strangled by the umbilical cord which got wrapped around her neck and stopped her from breathing. Had the medical team arrived on time, she probably would have been saved, he says, teardrops cascading down his cheeks.
Mr Yusuf’s chilling account is just part of the challenges facing the maternity facility, one of the oldest in Kenya constructed in 1926. It is reeling under claims of mismanagement, under-staffing and low funding.
Inside the walls of the hospital are tales of agony, sufferings and misery that the staff and patients, who work and seek treatment at the facility respectively, go through.
At the new born unit, a single incubator is playing host to four babies instead of one. Inside the theatre room, there are only three machines where only two are working.
The wards are no better. Expectant mothers have no beds forcing most of them to seek refuge on the cold floors as they battle labour pains. Those who are lucky to get a bed have to share them with at least four others.
The hospital has a total of 159 nurses, with the labour ward assigned seven nurses during the day and six at night, falling short of the World Health Organization's requirement of at least 10 nurses per ward.
It is this workforce that is expected to deliver over 40 babies during the day and another 25 to 28 babies at night.
“At times, the post-natal clinic will be manned by just four nurses expected to attend to 90 patients, which is simply overwhelming for us,” a nurse told the Nation.
Consultant Dr Edmond Baraza says the hospital does not have a functional blood bank, forcing it to rely on deliveries from the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) in case expectant mothers have emergencies.
“We are not allowed to carry out replacement blood transfusion. If the blood in our coolers is out of stock, then we must call KNBTS for fresh supplies,” Dr Baraza said.
Nairobi County Health Chief Officer Mahat Jimale on Tuesday said that 11 deaths had been recorded at the hospital between Wednesday and Sunday last week. The hospital recorded 244 deliveries during the stated period.
Nursing officer Alvin Namisi said they work under tough conditions where nurses have at times been forced to use surgical blades to cut the babies’ cords during delivery, which he termed “dangerous”.
“People throw stones at us by accusing us of all manner of ills including baby theft, but forget that everything we do with regards to babies, including deaths, is documented,” he said.
He said the inefficiency in service delivery is caused by the backlog of cases awaiting emergency assistance.
At the same time, the Senate Committee on Health has said it will summon Governor Mike Sonko to ventilate on the status of health services in the county, which they termed as disappointing.
Senator Michael Mbito, chair of the committee, said that there is a serious management problem at the hospital, disclosing that every department they visited had a problem from shortage of staff, high child mortality and a dysfunctional incinerator.
Senator Johnson Sakaja termed the quality of healthcare as unsatisfying, saying Mr Sonko would be required to give an account about the usage of funds allocated to the city’s health kitty.
On her part, Senator Beatrice Kwamboka decried the rusty, ancient incinerator at the facility.