On entering Nakuru Level Five Hospital, your attention is grabbed by a blue signpost with a white arrow pointing to the recently established infectious disease unit.
Inside the barbed wire-ringed isolation ward, with restricted access, are 20 respiratory ventilators, nine intensive care unit (ICU) beds and a handful of health staff.
This ward, next to the main entrance, is the nerve centre for the county’s battle against Covid-19.
With a population of 2.2 million, Nakuru is one of Kenya’s high-risk counties given its location between Nairobi and Western Kenya. It is also a tourism hub and the administrative centre of the Rift Valley region.
While more than Sh20 million was spent in equipping the isolation ward, staff who spoke to the Nation expressed fears over their preparedness.
“Only two of our staff have so far been trained to operate ICU machines,” said one employee.
A team of 25 healthcare workers are stationed at the ward, but they are also expected to serve the Naivasha Sub-County Hospital isolation centre.
Suspected cases of Covi-19 are being isolated at the three quarantine centres — Kenya Industrial Training Institute, Naivasha Girls High School and Kenya Medical Training College’s Nakuru campus.
At least five cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the county. Of the five, two have recovered and been discharged while three are being managed at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital and Naivasha isolation centres.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui’s administration is battling to stop infections with a major focus on testing, public awareness campaigns and providing face masks.
Long-distance truck drivers, a high-risk group using the Nairobi- Nakuru-Malaba highway, are being tested at Maai Mahiu Health Centre.
With a production target of 20,000 face masks per day, the county plans to provide them to at-risk groups, including slum dwellers and the elderly.
The masks are being produced by various private and public institutions.
The devolved unit has also set aside Sh250 million to cushion the vulnerable against the economic shocks of the pandemic.
Each of the 55 wards has been allocated Sh3.7 million while the most vulnerable wards have been allocated an additional Sh1.5 million each.
The cash will be used to provide food, water, sanitiser, protective gear and farm inputs.
For oversight, the county assembly has appointed a 15-member ad hoc committee. Procuring all supplies should be done at the ward level, the committee said, with essential items being sourced from within the administrative units.
But Nakuru’s plan to stop the virus is facing several hurdles, including failure of some residents to change their behaviours.
In Elburgon, for instance, locals continue to crowd at matatu terminals and markets. Street children in Nakuru Town roam without face masks.
“We use discarded face masks as we cannot afford to buy new ones,” said John Kiarie, a street boy.
Fishermen at landing sites and traders on the shores of Lake Naivasha are also flouting rules. With the latest case in the county reported in Naivasha, maybe residents will be jolted into compliance.
Reports by Phyllis Musasia, Eric Matara, Francis Mureithi, Samuel Baya, Macharia Mwangi, John Njoroge, Joseph Openda and Margaret Maina