Tana River County has ordered 200 hospital beds in its Covid-19 preparedness plan, but there is a hitch: the local referral hospital has no space for them.
"We have an infrastructural problem: we are expecting 200 beds in a few weeks but we do not even know where to put them. We are trying to improvise to satisfy the government’s directives," Governor Dhadho Godhana told journalists at the Hola Referral Hospital on Thursday.
He said that his administration may have to seek help from residents near health facilities to rent out their homes for use as Covid-19 isolation centres.
If the beds were to be accommodated in the Hola hospital, patients would have to be treated under trees as they would take the available space.
And that is not all. Mr Godhana said almost all the structures in the Level 4 hospital have been condemned and are therefore unsuitable for use for medical purposes.
“We sit in a condemned structure, trying to renovate and patch up here and there,” he said.
He said that the maternity wings in hospitals and health centres had been identified as potential isolation wards, meaning that mothers would have to be released immediately after giving birth.
The administration has managed to install 76 beds in various facilities in the county, with 54 accommodated at the referral hospital.
But the county has no ICU bed. The county administration has advertised for suppliers of ventilators and oxygen tanks for a 10-bed isolation ward at the Hola Referral Hospital.
Already, the hospital has two concentrators, according to the governor, and will soon be fixing oxygen tanks for use by Covid-19 patients.
The county has so far recorded two cases of Covid-19, with 63 people awaiting test results.
According to the county health executive Javan Bonaya, Tana River requires Sh100 million to put up the standard isolation ward recommended by the World Health Organisation, a cost the county cannot meet at the moment.
Mr Bonaya said the administration has been making adjustments to create space for 300 beds and has even evacuated staff from four houses to be used for other services.
At the Hola Referral Hospital, the administration has resolved to convert the delivery room, and female and male wards into isolation wards, where they hope to put 100 beds.
The health department has restricted admissions except for critical cases.
In the Madogo Health Centre, the department has converted the maternity wing into an isolation ward with a capacity of 10 beds, while In Tana Delta, the Garsen and Ngao hospitals are under renovation, with the general wards and the maternity wings being considered for isolation wards with 12 beds each.
"We allocated Sh20 million, which we borrowed from various departments for these projects. It is not enough and we are straining a lot," said Mr Bonaya.
The health executive noted that their appeal to the county assembly for Sh186 million to help prepare for the pandemic was shot down by ward representatives over audit queries.