A task force formed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga in July, 2011, to investigate the status of Pumwani Maternity Hospital came up with a slate of findings and recommendations on how to improve its operations a month later.
It discovered a chronic lack of water for use by new mothers, blocked toilets and bathrooms, rudeness among staff, absenteeism among doctors, and the resultant higher than normal maternal and child mortality rate.
It so happens that Pumwani is the biggest maternity hospital in the country run by the City Council of Nairobi and catering for those who can’t afford the charges levied by private hospitals.
Two years later, the same problems obtain, meaning that nobody bothered to act on the report. This is a sign that in our greatly unequal society in which there is no political will to cushion the poor from the ravages of destitution, a huge section of society will always suffer from institutional neglect.
Getting our priorities right on basic maternal health and hygiene is not exactly rocket science; it is common sense.
In this day and age, why would new mothers be forced to ask their relatives to bring water from home for cleaning up their babies just because the boiler has broken down?
Come to think of it, why would expectant mothers have to use cold water from the tap (when it is available) to clean themselves?
It is time the government took over the running of Pumwani from the council and even upgraded it to the same status as Kenyatta National Hospital.
As it is, Pumwani has for too long been a national shame, which is most likely because none of the spouses of the decision- and policy-makers have to lodge there for even one night.