Heart and cancer patients in four counties in Mt Kenya cannot access basic scans after the equipment in the hospitals either broke down, or have not been delivered.
The hardest hit are patients who need CT scans and MRIs since no public hospital in the region is offering the services. According to Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union Central region boss Gor Goody, referral hospitals in the counties get 25 to 30 requests for scans in a day.
John Maina, 67, a patient in Nyeri, is a victim of the shortage. The matatu driver collapsed as he was about to leave for Nairobi, but doctors could not give a diagnosis without a scan.
“They suspected that I had a brain problem but could not pinpoint what it was. My family raised funds for me to get a scan at a private hospital. But I need others. Will I keep going back to them for cash?” he asks.
Mr Maina was diagnosed with cerebral oedema, or swelling of the brain.
A CT scan provides more advanced diagnostic details than an ordinary X-ray since it detects and monitors diseases and conditions such as cancer, while MRIs are used when other tests cannot confirm whether there is bleeding or swelling, say in the head.
Laikipia, Murang’a and Kirinyaga counties have not had any of the machines while a CT scan machine bought by the national government and installed at the Nyeri Referral Hospital has been out of service for three years. Even when it was working, Dr Goody said, it could handle only 10 patients a day, against a demand of about 30.
Nyeri Health Executive Rachael Kamau said repairing the machine would not be worthwhile. “Repairing the machine would be too expensive, bearing in mind that it will become obsolete in a few years,” she said.
The situation is the same in Laikipia, Kirinyaga and Murang’a counties, where patients either travel to Kenyatta National Hospital, or go to private hospitals.
In Kirinyaga, patients are referred to Karira Mwea Mission Hospital, which charges Sh7,500 for a scan while patients in Laikipia visit a private clinic in Nanyuki that charges Sh10,000.
Kirinyaga Health Executive Agnes Wanjiru said the Kerugoya Hospital will have a CT scan machine soon, courtesy of the national government. “The construction of the building that will house the machine is under way and we will have a radiology wing by the end of this month,” she said.
Laikipia acting Chief Officer at the Health Department Donald Mogoi told the Nation that plans are under way to acquire a CT scan machine for the Nanyuki Teaching and Referral Hospital before end of this year.