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10 year-old dies as doctors’ strike chokes healthcare

Christine Mbulwa lost her 10 year old son today/MUTHONI NJUKI

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 4 – By the time we spoke to 28 year old Christine Mbulwa, she had little hope if none at all.

We caught up with her at a private hospital in Nairobi where she was looking after her 10 year-old son a few hours after his admission.

A large oxygen cylinder with a pipe connecting it to a breathing mask on her son’s mouth showed that all was not well.

Her son barely made any movements apart from the heavy breathing contractions around his chest and the loud whizzing that grasped our attention.

But Mbulwa, a courageous mother – one who at her young age had witnessed her son suffer from a tumour discovered in 2014 – was quite composed.

She had been struggling to get him treated at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and for about two months there was hope since her son was receiving treatment.

Unfortunately, when doctors downed their tools about a month ago, she was directly affected.

She had to look for a private hospital so that her son could continue with treatment.

It was a hard task because transferring her son, meant digging deeper into her pockets.

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“At KNH, I was using my NHIF card for bed expenses. But when it is private, I had to look for money from well-wishers. It took me about a month before I could get money,” she recounted.

After managing to get her son to a private hospital on Wednesday, the doctor’s report didn’t give any hope of her son improving.

“They told me the growth had increased and nothing much could be done. It was too late even for radiotherapy or any other treatment – he will only get painkillers and then we just pray,” she explained.

About two hours after interviewing Mbulwa, the sad news that her son had passed on reached us.

At the time, the news crew was at KNH assessing the situation following the doctors’ strike.

The hospital that is usually packed to capacity right from the casualty to the wards, corridors and the compound were almost empty.

At the compound near the casualty area, there were only two patients sleeping on some seats.

The lifts which at 12.30 (lunchtime visiting hours) are usually packed to capacity and with long queues of people had less than five people during all the trips we made from floor to floor and wing to wing.

Security men who usually have difficult moments controlling queues of people at the main entrance to the wards during visiting hours were on Wednesday leisured and chatted because the place was deserted.

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There were empty beds and wards.

It was moving when we entered one of the wards to check on a patient and upon entering, an elderly patient started begging us calling out ‘doctor, doctor, please help me.’

One of the patients was a lady who has been at the hospital for the last eight months.

“Since doctors went on strike, I don’t know how I am fairing. I was to get a report of some tests I did but a month has passed and I don’t know what my condition is,” she sadly explained.

It was quite moving – a situation that left us disturbed but with hopes that doctors and the government could put themselves in the shoes of people like Mbulwa and her now dead son and hear the voice of the old woman who was calling for a doctor and resolve the strike that has left people saturated in pain, moaning and thrown into despair.

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