, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 20 – New mothers at the Kenyatta National Hospital have told a group of Women Parliamentarians how lax security measures and loopholes in the National Hospital Insurance fund and the floor structure at the maternity ward have combined to create fertile ground for sexual predators.
Led by Kirinyaga County Woman Representative and Chairperson of the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, Wangui Ngirici, the legislators heard how mothers are forced to walk along the wide and long corridors, and take the stairs to breastfeed their babies with minimal security.
“The mothers have told us they need good lighting and security, especially on the second floor. There is sufficient lighting on the first and third floor but security can be beefed up,” said Ngirici.
The maternity wing occupies a section of the first floor and third floor, with the nurseries on both floors meaning new mothers can be on the first floor using the stairs to the third floor in the dead of the night to breastfeed.
“The mothers have told us that they come to breastfeed at least four times at night and most of the time they are unaccompanied by security officers. They have requested that they are all put on one floor especially near where the newborn unit is,” said Muranga Women representative, Sabina Chege, during a fact-finding visit by the women legislators, Saturday morning.
Allegations of rape, attempted rape and sexual harassment first came to the fore on social media on Thursday where scores of mothers recounted harrowing tales of how they were accosted along dimly lit stairs and elevators with most victims pointing a finger at morgue attendants moving bodies at night.
But KNH Chief Executive Officer Lily Koros has discredited the allegations saying mortuary attendants use service lifts, which are separate from lifts used by patients and clients.
“For the mortuary attendants, I want to say that like any other employee of this hospital every individual is vetted. Before you’re employed, you actually have to come with a good conduct certificate,” said Koros on Friday while responding to the rape allegations.
The legislators, however, have not heard or did not reveal a case where the mothers have been raped or harassed.
“The mothers have told us they have heard incidences where they meet with the mortuary guys taking the bodies, especially at around 3am. Most of them run away because of the fear of dead bodies. But they have also confirmed the bodies are well covered,” added Chege.
The women parliamentarians have also heard how some babies have been detained by the hospital due to a loophole in the National Hospital Insurance Fund, Linda Mama maternity policy that covers the mothers but not the babies.
“One mother (who had already been discharged) has shared with us that on one of the days she had come to breastfeed her baby, she was chased by a patient along the corridors. Nothing happened to them luckily, we thank God,” said Samburu nominated Senator Naisula Lesuuda.
Lesuuda says the mother raised the issue with the management and the hospital increased security officers on that floor.
“So the management should not deny that there have been issues. They should say, ‘yes we are aware and we are working to improve on ABCD,’” added Lesuuda.
The MPs said the women were instructed by the hospital staff to go to the nursery in groups.
Lesuuda said the women were also told that “if you see a man in the lift (alone) don’t enter. That means that it something they are aware of.”
Koros has promised to look into the complaints though she has maintained the hospital has never received rape or harassment complaints from maternity patients.
Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu has given the hospital’s management until Monday to report back to him with the findings of their internal investigations.