The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) has launched a probe into the deaths of 60 babies at Kiambu Level Five Hospital.
Board Chief Executive Officer Daniel Yumbya made the announcement on Sunday, following a report on Friday that that number of newborns died at the facility in the last two months.
Mary Kamau, Kiambu County Health executive, confirmed the deaths but defended the hospital against claims of negligence.
The board asked the hospital's management to explain the deaths in a letter dated February 15, 2019 and signed by Dr Yumbya.
It demanded an explanation from Medical Superintendent Dr Jesse Ngugi.
“The attention of the board is drawn to a report appearing in a local daily, which alleges that at least 60 infants have died at Kiambu Level Five Hospital since December 2018,” the letter stated.
“To assist the board in its investigations, you are required to submit a comprehensive report on the allegations raised in the article and patient files of all the infants who passed away."
Speaking to the Nation on Sunday, the board CEO said Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki asked for a report on the deaths.
“I have written to the hospital to submit a report on the deaths by Friday. We shall visit the facility, analyse the report and submit our findings to the Cabinet secretary for further action,” said Dr Yumbya.
Regarding the fact-finding mission, he said they will “carry out a survey of procedures and interview all the relevant medical personnel connected to the report”.
“We will be accompanied by members of the Nursing Council of Kenya to ascertain the conditions under which expectant [women] and their babies receive health care at the facility,” he said.
Affected families have accused the hospital of negligence amid the public's anger over care for pregnant women and babies.
The county health executive pointed the finger at the mothers, saying 35 babies were pre-term and with chances of survival.
“In the two months of December 2018 and January 2019, Kiambu hospital conducted 1,703 deliveries. We had a total of 60 neonatal deaths out of which 35 were pre-term babies weighing less than 1.5 kilograms,” Ms Kamau said.
“About 50 per cent of the pre-term cases were referrals from neighbouring private, faith-based and other public facilities. The survival rate for severe pre-term babies is very low worldwide."
Ms Kamau added that the county’s average neonatal mortality rate was lower than the national average of 22 deaths per every 1,000 live births.
“It is worth noting that Kiambu County has an average neonatal mortality rate of 15,” she said.
Dr Ngugi also sought to exonerate his staff, saying several circumstances play significant roles in the deaths of pre-term babies.
“We usually request for consent because we want relatives to know a Ceasarean section procedure carries known risks including wound infection,” Dr Ngugi said, while responding to questions on the death of one Ms Naomi Gathoni’s baby.
"I cannot say the death of the baby was as a result of any technicality in the procedure."
The administrators did not answer mobile phone calls and messages for comment on the board’s action.