NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 5 – Within the 20 minutes we camped outside the Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi, some 10 pregnant women were turned away by security guards at the main entrance.
Some were already in their last stages of labour.
But this did not change the situation because there were no doctors to attend to them.
“Anyone who walks in here to give birth, we have to turn them away because there are no doctors. There is nothing we can do, we know they are suffering but what can I do and I don’t know how to deliver babies?” a concerned female security officer at Pumwani asked with concern.
Evelyn Odindo was one of the women who instead of looking forward to the joy of receiving a first born child, was not only persevering the excruciating pain that comes with labour but was also being tossed from public hospital to public hospital.
After coming all the way from Kayole to Pumwani, she was turned away despite her pangs of labour.
“I have not been helped. Labour pain started yesterday, I went to Kayole One, then I was told to come to Pumwani, but I have now been turned away and my due date already passed.”
“I have no choice I just have to go back home to Kayole. I don’t have money because I thought I would use my NHIF card,” Odindo narrated.
Unfortunately, she had to take a matatu with ear-splitting music and loud hand bangs made on the door by a tout who was shouting on top of his voice ‘kumi, kumi’ (Sh10) to call out on more passengers.
Few moments after talking to Odindo, another woman who was in intense labour lazily walked out of Pumwani Maternity with her hands supporting her back from the waist and breathing hard as if gasping for breath.
“I am going to a private hospital in Eastleigh,” the pregnant lady struggled to speak as she was hurriedly helped into a taxi.
The horrific experiences of pregnant mothers suffering right outside a government hospital were of great concern to people who live and work nearby.
A business lady outside Pumwani hospital said she had seen so many women arrive at the hospital, some almost giving birth but still they were turned away.
“I have been seeing women arriving and leaving the hospital still pregnant. I wondered how I would help them. We don’t know if these women being chased from here to go and give birth elsewhere, if their babies will survive,” she regretted.
“Today (Thursday) there was another woman with her husband. She was grabbing her husband – a man who doesn’t even understand what labour pain is. He husband called for a taxi quickly and they left. I don’t know which hospital they went to.”
The anguish of expectant women had also got the attention of men in the area.
As much as the business was booming especially for taxi operators who had lined their vehicles right outside the hospital, they were worried that women were suffering beyond comprehension.
“Women are arriving here daily to give birth. We are carrying some of them with their babies already popping out. This is really terrible, women are suffering,” a taxi driver told Capital FM News.
Since doctors downed their tools on December 5, 2016, thousands of Kenyans across the country have suffered immensely.
People have lost their loved ones. Others have had their conditions deteriorate while others have had to beg for money to seek for treatment in private hospitals and still more have given up and returned to suffer in their homes and wait for death or luck.
On Wednesday, Capital FM News highlighted a sad story where a mother lost a 10-year old son who had missed his chemotherapy treatment for a month after doctors went on strike.
By the time she had managed to raise money to transfer him to a private hospital, the boy’s condition had worsened.
He died few hours after admission.
Despite the suffering, the government and doctors had not yet struck a deal by Thursday evening.
Doctors working in public hospitals through the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union want a 300 percent salary increase from the June 2013 collective bargaining agreement signed between the doctors and government, a demand that the government has said cannot fully meet due to lack of resources.
On Wednesday, the doctors rejected the government’s offer of Sh4 billion every year.
Without a deal, the situation will continue to worsen for majority of Kenyans who depend on the reasonably affordable public health services.