Why it’s hard to know where truth lies in Kenyatta hospital rape saga

Wednesday March 18 2020
knh

A view of Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi. The Retirement Benefits Authority has ordered the hospital to pay 114 former workers a total of Sh126 million in retirement dues. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ELIZABETH MERAB

Was there, or was there not rape at Kenyatta National Hospital? That is the question many Kenyans have been asking since damning claims against the country’s biggest referral hospital surfaced.

On Friday morning, a series of posts appeared on a rather trusted Facebook group known as “Buyer Beware” detailing reports of sexual abuse at the hospital.

“KNH is a hotspot of thieves...from the queue to the lifts. Beware,” wrote Ms Mildred Owiso in the post that elicited online outrage and snowballed into investigations and tales that have raised more questions than answers.

The allegations were chilling as they gave accounts of rape in wards. To this end, however, no rape victim has come out clearly to share her story.

Even so, women leaders visited the hospital on Saturday on a “fact finding mission”.

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu ordered an investigation into the matter.

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INVESTIGATIONS

A team of police officers has been camping at the hospital since Friday and a report on the investigations is expected to be made public tomorrow.

Those accused of perpetrating the violence are mortuary attendants who have also been fingered for using bodies to scare new mothers.

It is said the attendants have been scaring women who go to breastfeed at the newborn unit on the first floor.

According to the reports, the workers scare the women using bodies when they meet in the elevators.

This could not be independently verified as the attendants only go to the wards when summoned to take away bodies before morning rounds by doctors.

The evening feeding schedule at KNH has been set at an interval of three hours. The first is at 9pm and the last at 3am. This makes the women leave the wards and return in groups.

“We use this schedule to give nurses time to attend to the babies. Once they are done, we allow the mothers to breastfeed,” a doctor said.

This activity coincides with the time mortuary attendants arrive to take away the bodies — between 3 and 5.30am.

SERVICE LIFT

“Even so, the attendants follow a strict schedule. They access the wards using a service lift. The only place they can bump into the women is on corridors,” a doctor at the maternity wing said.

A three-minute walk using the stairs from the labour ward on the ground floor, leads one to the maternity ward on first floor.

The floor hosts a number of women who have been discharged from but cannot leave as they wait for their babies still in the newborn unit on the same first floor.

Each floor has guards and CCTV cameras. The backdoors  are closed.

“Upon entering the ward, a nurses’ station is what you first see,” said the resident doctor.

What of the blind spots where the cameras cannot capture? There are gaps that can allow one to peek through floors, though it may not give a clear view of what may be happening.

“Given the distance from the wards and the new born unit, it is impossible for anyone to rape without being noticed,” the doctor added.