Nyeri's grounded ambulances hurt emergency health services

Wednesday May 22 2019

A grounded ambulance in Nyeri

A grounded ambulance belonging to the Nyeri County government at the Nyeri Health Centre on May 14, 2019. A number of ambulances in the county are grounded, posing a major challenge to emergency health services. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

IRENE MUGO
By IRENE MUGO
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Mr Wachira Mburu had been admitted to a mission hospital in Nyeri County with a heart disease that had persisted for more than two years.

Last month, his condition worsened prompting doctors to recommend he be moved to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi which meant he had first to get a referral from the county hospital.

After obtaining the referral letter, Mr Mburu’s relatives were informed that the hospital could not provide an ambulance as it had broken down.

At this point, he was in a critical condition and they needed to move him fast to save his life.

"We started looking for alternative means to transport him to Nairobi and sought the Red Cross ambulance which charged us Sh30,000 which was so expensive for us," said Ms Wambui Mburu, his sister.

"We were running out of time and so we pleaded with Mathari Mission Hospital to allow us to use their ambulance, charging us Sh10,000 to Kenyatta Hospital," Ms Mburu added.

INEFFICIENCIES

This incident exposed the inefficient emergency healthcare in the county, which is largely characterised by delays.

The irony is that, in the biggest public hospital in Mt Kenya region, three ambulances sit grounded at the parking lot.

The Nation established from the Health department that only two ambulances are working while the rest are grounded in different garages and parking lots in the county referral hospital.

This, according to health workers, hampers emergency services in the county.

A driver, who declined to be named, said they are being overworked since drivers of seven other ambulances were fired.

“Only two ambulances are working and there are no drivers, making us work overtime and in almost all sub-counties,” said the driver.

The ambulances in operation include one in Nyeri Town Health Centre and another at the referral hospital.

MAJOR SHORTAGE

A nurse at the referral hospital said there is a major shortage of ambulances and the problem is made worse by lack of drivers.

In an interview, County Director for Health Nelson Mureu admitted there are challenges with the ambulances.

Dr Mureu said the main problem is that the vehicles cover long distances before they are serviced and take too long to be checked.

It is not Nyeri alone that is grappling with the problem of broken down ambulances.

In December 2018, Meru MCAs called for a probe into the state of ambulances in the county after it emerged that several of them were parked in garages.

In Tharaka-Nithi County, there is a serious shortage of ambulances after almost all that were bought by the former regime stalled.

A recent report by the county assembly health committee indicated that the county has only one ambulance serving 118 hospitals.