Time running out to stop Covid-19 disaster

Sunday July 05 2020

The country is staring at a major crisis as the full weight of the Covid-19 is coming to bear. The capacity of medical facilities is being stretched to the limit and while initially the government thought of conducting mass testing, that has been shelved due to inadequate equipment and reagents. But even without mass testing, the number of infections is swelling by the day.

Latest reports indicate that the country’s top hospitals are fast running out of ICU beds. At the latest count, it was established the country had less than 1,000 ICU beds.

Yet, according to projections by the Ministry of Health, the country requires more than 100,000 ICU beds to comfortably handle serious coronavirus cases. With the recorded infections rising steeply, the country is in great danger without adequate numbers of ICU beds.

Matters are made worse by the fact that efforts to expand medical facilities at the counties to handle coronavirus cases have not achieved the desired goal.

6,898 BEDS

So far, the counties have only established a total of 6,898 beds against a target of 30,500. An analysis by counties is even worse. Although each county was expected to have established at least a 300-bed capacity, only 12 have achieved that. Some counties like Siaya and Kirinyaga have less than 20, making the situation even worse.


What is emerging is that the country is ill-prepared to deal with the virus. Yet it was thought that since the government had been modelling infection scenarios, it was simultaneously working on expanding the capacity of the health facilities to cope with the anticipated surge.

When President Kenyatta gave his last address on Covid-19 in June, he called for the expansion of health facilities and singularly asked counties to expand isolation wards to get ready for a spike in infections.


For good measure, the government allocated Sh5 billion to counties to put up isolation facilities, including ICU units. Just this week, the World Bank released some Sh4.6 billion to the counties to expand facilities. This is in addition to Sh1.5 billion given out earlier.

The expectation is that the Covid-19 cash should be used to put up more facilities in public health institutions. Thus, the question is: what has happened? Why hasn’t there been action to expedite the expansion?

Time is running out and, therefore, the Health ministry and counties must scale up the expansion of health facilities and particularly ICU units. Similarly, the government must intensify campaigns to minimise infections.