NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 14 – Kenya’s first ever public TB isolation ward will be operational in August this year.
Kenyatta National Hospital Chief Executive Officer Richard Lesiyampe says the hospital is waiting for the government to release Sh21 million to equip the ward whose construction is already complete.
“The construction began last year. The Public Health and Sanitation Ministry promised it will provide these funds in the next financial year (July, 2012). We are certain the facility will be up and running in August this year,” he asserted.
The isolation ward is said to have been constructed at a cost of Sh40 million allocated by the government seven years ago. Construction was only completed last year.
An isolation ward is significant since a patient suffering from TB requires isolation in the first sixth months.
Lesiyampe says the hospital is concerned about the infection rates of TB especially the Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR TB) and the Extreme Drug Resistant TB (XDR), explaining that the new ward will also help cut down on the infection rates in the country.
He said currently, KNH has set up tents at the hospital where patients with TB especially those with resistant TB can access treatment as they wait for the equipping of the isolation ward to be finalised.
His remarks followed concerns raised by Kenya AIDS NGO Consortium which in an interview with Capital News asked the government to fast track the completion of the isolation ward for TB patients in Kenya.
KANCO Senior TB Advocacy Manager Evaline Kibuchi complained that since the Sh40 million was set aside way back in 2005 the ward was not yet operational.
She regretted that the government has not prioritised prevention and treatment of TB in Kenya as more Kenyans risk contracting TB including MDR and XDR.
“Why has it taken the government seven years? This money was set aside so that it could help reduce new infections and it is not giving us the value that we are supposed to be getting from this money,” she complained.
According to Kibuchi, Kenya has handled 600 cases of MDR TB and three cases of XDR but two of the patients have since died. Patients with the two strains of TB should they infect other people, they will also get the two strains.
She says the danger is that people with TB move from their homes to KNH on a daily basis mixing freely with uninfected people yet TB is airborne and can be passed the first six months of treatment. “A TB patient cannot infect others after six months of treatment. So the isolation should be in the first six months.”
Eddy Chichi, a 36 year old man who lived with TB and even suffered MDR TB for 15 years says it was very difficult for him to walk every day from his home in Kinoo to KNH for his treatment. He has since been healed.
He also asked the government to work on strategies to bring down the cost of TB treatment, which according to Kibuchi, for treating MDR TB, a patient requires Sh1.5 million to complete the treatment while an XDR TB case will require Sh3.3 million.
Kibuchi is urging the government to look for ways in which it can fully fund treatment of the two TB strains instead of relying on international donors.
Kenya is ranked number 13 out of the 22 countries classified to bear 80 percent of the TB global burden.