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Kenya to mark Spine Day as patients suffer

Tuesday October 15 2013
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PHOTO | FILE Patients at the National Spinal Injury Hospital receive donations on December 24, 2012.

By DOROTHY KWEYU

Kenya will on Wednesday join the rest of the global community in marking the World Spine Day amid concerns over lack of enough facilities to treat patients with spinal injuries.

This is the second time October 16 is being dedicated to spine health. Previously it was subsumed under the World Arthritis Day or World Osteoporosis Day.

In Kenya, activities to mark the day will be coordinated by the National Spinal Injury Hospital (NSIH), the only such facility in sub-Saharan Africa, with the only others located in South Africa and Egypt.

Cabinet Secretary for Health James Macharia will flag off a wheelchair procession from Afya House — the Ministry of Health headquarters — to the Hurligham-based hospital.

The procession is meant to raise awareness about spinal health and spine disorders.

LACK OF FACILITIES

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In an interview with the Nation, the NSIH medical superintendent, Dr Soren Otieno, decried lack of facilities to treat patients with spinal injuries and poor prognosis by rescuers especially after an accident.

The hospital has only 30 beds and there is no option of sharing beds as is common with the other overstretched public hospitals given the delicate state of spinal injury patients.

Patients are admitted for six to 12 months, meaning the 150 to 200 wait-listed patients at the Kenyatta National and Mbagathi District hospitals, from where the newly-injured are filtered into the spinal hospital, have to wait that long. Most patients with spinal injuries have to use wheel chairs for the rest of their lives.

Various reasons explain the poor prognosis of spinal injury patients, starting from the scene of accident. According to Dr Otieno, how a patient is handled and taken to hospital greatly determines his or her future.

The initial handling can turn a 50 per cent injury into 100 per cent spinal damage.

In more developed better equipped countries, the Good Samaritan’s role is to call the ambulance, which arrives within minutes, and is best placed to handle the patient.

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