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Hasten baby deaths probe

Wednesday February 20 2019

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The prompt investigation by Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board into the reported deaths of 60 babies in a hospital is welcome.

This is a grave issue that calls for deep reflection and action, considering that these many newborns have died at the Kiambu Level Five Hospital in just two months.

It is an indictment of the performance of the local health authorities, and also the Health ministry headquarters. It is also a mockery of the efforts by President Uhuru Kenyatta to boost maternal health. One of the first key steps that he took on coming into office in 2013 was to waive maternity charges in public health centres and hospitals.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta’s Beyond Zero initiative has also played a pivotal role in expanding maternity services. The revelation of such a calamity is bound to have serious repercussions on the campaign to encourage more women to deliver in hospital. Ironically, the very place where expectant mothers should be assured of safe delivery is where deaths have occurred.

This is a case of an ailing public system crying out for attention through increased monitoring to ensure that the services sought are efficiently delivered. Increased access to maternity services from qualified personnel is the surest way to curb maternal and child mortality. Resources must be provided to prevent child deaths. Kiambu’s Health Department has defended the hospital against claims of negligence, arguing that the county’s average neonatal mortality is lower than the national average of 22 deaths per 1,000 live births, but the board wants a cogent explanation.

There are a number of challenges, including the ongoing nurses’ strike, that undermine the efficacy of the public health sector. The authorities must strive to resolve them as quickly as possible.