Ministry not ready to handle Ebola

Friday August 22 2014

Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia. Last week’s announcement that the government is equipping county hospitals could mean the difference between life and death for 44-year-old Rose Chiedo, a cancer patient. FILE  PHOTO |

Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia. Four years ago, a national cancer plan was drawn up to guide response to the disease. FILE PHOTO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP.

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The Health Ministry’s preparedness in the fight against Ebola is worrying despite assurances from top officials.

A day after the Nation highlighted how ill-equipped officers manning borderpoints at Busia, Malaba and Namanga were, the government provided them with gloves and thermometers.

Two public health officers have been placed at Namanga to screen people arriving from Tanzania. The officers have gloves and a thermometer.
“We have only screened one Tanzania who was from Nigeria,” said Public Health Officer James Njuguna.

There are several Ebola posters on walls. At the health centre which is about 300m from the borderpoint, officers are yet to be trained on how to handle the disease.

The hospital has no isolation room and its only ambulance is grounded. A nurse said they were expecting officials from the ministry headquarters to train them on handling Ebola.

Some area residents like Peter Kariuki expressed reservations. “How many people can read the posters?” he asked.

On the Tanzanian side of the border, properly equipped medical staff were screening visitors from Kenya. Fernandes Ndeje, the health officer in charge of the Tanzanian port clinic, said other officers were being trained in Dar-es-Salam.


“We received this equipment from the capital city and we screen people arriving from Kenya for Ebola signs,” he said.

Health cabinet secretary James Macharia on Tuesday said all was well at border towns and that the ministry was prepared to handle any outbreak.
“We are not focusing on airlines only but all entry points,” he said.

In Malaba, officials said they were closely monitoring the Kenya-Uganda border. They said they were screening all travellers. Malaba port health officer in charge Meshack Tunduli said no traveller could pass the immigration department without getting clearance from the public health office. An average of 1,500 travellers and 2,000 trucks pass through the borderpoint daily.

Mr Tunduli said they had set up an isolation unit. Immigration officials denied reports that travellers from West Africa had gone through the border without being screened.

At Isebania border point in Migori County, health workers were sitting idle with their Immigration department counterparts on Friday.

“We have been told that kits will arrive next week. In the meantime, we are using basic knowledge to monitor the situation,” one of them said.
County health director Joel Gondi confirmed that testing kits were yet to be delivered.

“Proper and effective screening will begin next week when we get the gadgets although medical officers have been sent to key borderp oints,” he said.
He said they were making people aware of the disease.

Additional reporting by Ouma Wanzala, Elisha Otieno and Raphael Wanjala