Outrage on social media over rape allegations at KNH

Friday January 19 2018

Lily Koros and Cleopa Mailu.

Kenyatta National Hospital CEO Lily Koros and Health CS Cleopa Mailu at the hospital on January 19, 2018. The Cabinet secretary said investigations are ongoing on allegations that patients have been raped at the facility. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By AGGREY OMBOKI
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National outrage was building up on Friday over a Facebook post detailing allegations of abuse at Kenyatta National Hospital.

The allegations contained in a Facebook group known as "Buyer Beware" accused the hospital of being "a hotspot of all kinds of criminal activities".

RAPE ATTEMPT

Ms Mildred Owiso alleged she had met a woman who fought off a rape attempt in the lift.

"The only thing that saved her was her voice. She screamed her attacker off," she wrote.

The rape attempt allegedly took place as the woman went to the nursery, on the first floor. The maternity ward is on the third floor, while other women are housed on the ground floor.

Ms Owiso also claimed petty theft was rampant in the facility.

"A lady dressed in Christian regalia was caught red handed with her hand in another woman's purse," she wrote.

Other group members also shared their experiences, alleging that the mortuary attendants would uncover bodies they were transporting to the morgue when they met the women in the corridors.

“When we meet them in the corridors, the attendants would uncover dead bodies on the stretcher or even attempt to rape us," said another post.

DENIAL

Hospital staff who spoke on condition of anonymity denied the possibility of such incidents.

"How can rape take place in such an open place where so many people are always passing and witnesses fail to say it? I have never heard of [it]. These allegations are part of a smear campaign targeting the management," said a security officer only known as Lamech.

A patient who would only speak on condition of anonymity claimed that another patient who had been raped later died.

The Nation was not able to verify her claims as she refused to allow the correspondent to alert the hospital authorities to interview her.

"I don't want these people to know me, I fear the consequences," said the woman, who had given birth three weeks ago.

Kenyatta National Hospital Newborn Unit.

Kenyatta National Hospital's Newborn Unit on September 14, 2017. National outrage was building up on Friday over a Facebook post detailing allegations of rape attempts on new mothers as they go to breastfeed their babies. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

INVESTIGATION

Health CS Cleopa Mailu ordered an investigation into the incident. He asked the hospital administration to investigate the matter and beef up security at the facility to protect patients and their relatives.

"The CS has noted social media reports, alleged rape of mothers on their way to and from the Newborn Unit. The CS has further ordered investigations into the matter. The KNH, management and security agents will provide a detailed report on Monday, January 23, 2017," he said on the Ministry of Health Twitter handle.

Speaking to journalists in the afternoon, Dr Mailu termed the rape reports "alarming", saying they would be investigated.

"We take these allegations very seriously and will investigate to establish whether they are true or false. We do not intend to take chances with the allegations," he said.

Dr Mailu said the hospital had carried out what he termed "significant improvements to the lighting in the corridors and wards", adding that the government would tighten security measures to protect patients.

He assured patients, their families and visitors that KNH was safe.

"Our hospital is safe and they can get treated here at any time without worrying about their security," said Dr Mailu.

REPORT

Addressing journalists after a fact finding visit to the facility, Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU) Secretary-General Ouma Oluga told the Nation that he had seen CCTV footage of last night's events and had not noticed any illegal activities captured.

"We have been taken round the wards and are yet to see anything out of the ordinary in the footage," he said.

He appealed to Ms Owiso, who posted the allegations in the Facebook page, to report the matter to the police.

"This lady called Mildred who posted the information should come out and report to the police for action to be taken and also for the said mother to be assisted," he said.

The doctors' union official said it was disheartening that the posts had been online for three days and the alleged victim was yet to be assisted.

"If indeed it happened, the people who reported it must come out and let the law enforcement agencies get to the bottom of the matter – if it is indeed true – so that the affected mother or mothers can be assisted through appropriate medical care, including counselling," he said.

KMPDU Chairman Samwel Oroko asked the management to immediately find a solution that would stop mothers from moving from the third floor ward to the nursery.

"Find a way to stop mother's moving up the stairs to breastfeed their babies. This is unfair to the mothers, some with wounds, and a shame," he said.

'NOT TRUE'

Addressing a press conference in the afternoon, hospital CEO Lily Koros denied the social media claims.

She said the facility had not received any complaint about attempts by hospital staff to sexually assault patients.

"If any has been attacked, let them report to us for immediate action," said Dr Koros.

She asked members of the public to ignore the rape allegations.

"We have been disturbed by the alarming reports on social media and we advise you all to ignore them," said Dr Koros.

She said the hospital was determined to ensure the issue was resolved.

Dr Koros said the hospital had contacted the Director of Criminal Investigations to look into the matter.