Road accidents draining KNH resources

January 29, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 29 – The recent sharp increase in road carnage is taking its toll on health facilities in the country, with the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) complaining on Thursday of a high turnover of road accident victims.

Chief Executive Officer Dr Jotham Micheni told Capital News that this influx was frustrating efforts to decongest the wards, because they could not turn away any patients.

“We have to divert our meagre resources to treat a few individuals who have very severe injuries. If we did not have those injuries, then we would use those resources for other needy cases like the cancer patients,” said Dr Micheni.

“It also affects our clinical outcome, in terms of staying in hospital for longer periods. And some of them might die, affecting the hospital performance in terms of the target,” he added.

The CEO said there was need to restore sanity in the transport sector with the reintroduction of the so-called ‘Michuki rules’, which when implemented had translated into a major dip in the number of road accidents. The rules had seen all Public Service Vehicles (PSV) installed with safety belts and speed governors.

“I think it is not well controlled and there is no normal behaviour in that sector. There is definitely impunity in terms of disregard to the rule of law, and generally I would say there is serious lack of regulation of PSV drivers,” Dr Micheni added.

“I think the law enforcement needs to be enhanced.”

The hospital boss said they are now losing over Sh300 million annually to patients who are unable to pay their bills, a staggering 70 percent of whom are road accident survivors.

He said this was affecting the hospital budget by about 25 percent.

“That percentage of the budget is just going into treating people, who would otherwise not have needed to be in hospital,” the CEO complained.

“I think it also affects the country’s economy because these could be people who are working, people who could be more productive and I think this road carnage has to end,” he asserted.

Dr Micheni further explained to Capital News that the hospital was now receiving between 40 and 50 road accident patients everyday, half of whom are admitted, thus affecting normal hospital operations.

“To treat a road accident victim who has broken bones and suffered other injuries is more expensive. It requires more resources especially for those who need to go to the Intensive Care Unit, or the theatre and they require more expensive medicine,” he detailed.

According to official police statistics, nearly 300 people died in road carnage in December alone, while 26 others lost their lives between January 1 and 5.

And the road accident survivors are now calling on the government to act speedily to reduce these statistics.

Those interviewed by Capital News from their hospital beds at the KNH said lack of speed governors in most PSVs was the major cause of these accidents.

“Traffic rules need to be reintroduced because like this ward is full of accident victims and more are being brought in everyday. Sometimes you can stay up to six months and you don’t have enough money to pay the bills,” appealed Paul, an accident survivor on Thika road.

“These days we do not even use the safety belts and the speed governors are no longer there. My hand was cut off in the accident,” said Dishon Momanyi another survivor of a grisly road crash on Waiyaki Way.

Mr Momanyi was travelling to Nairobi from Kisii.

“My life will now never be the same again because I cannot work as I used to. I have become lame,” said Joseph Kahunguri, yet another survivor whose left leg was cut off in an accident in Githurai 44.

In an exclusive interview with Capital News, Matatu Welfare Association Chairman Dickson Mbugua suggested the establishment of a secretariat by the government, to run road safety campaigns throughout the year, unlike presently when they are only done during festive period.

“The Ministry of Transport needs to pull up their socks. We need to see more activities in that Ministry,” he said.

Mr Mbugua accused law enforcement officers and Ministry of Transport officials of failing in their duty to protect PSV users.

“The PSV industry has been flooded by other high profile people who have invested in it and employed some of the reject drivers, who are arrogant because they are protected,” he alleged.

“It is not a crime for them to invest but they should not invest in the areas where they are supposed to enforce the laws because there is a conflict of interest.”
Mr Mbugua further claimed that Kenya was the only country south of the Sahara that did not fully implement road regulations.

“The Minister does not necessarily have to be on the road but his presence when the crackdowns are being mounted is very important,” he suggested.

“That’s what honourable Michuki (former Transport Minister) used to do. He would travel by road thereby monitoring the kind of compliance that is taking place.”

“The Minister for Transport (Chirau Ali Mwakwere) needs to criss-cross all these areas so that the road users can see a serious person.”

According to Mr Mbugua, about 100 lives were lost in road carnage in January alone.

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