Kenyan Mothers tales of neglect at Pumwani


Laundry in ward 5 at Pumwani maternity hospital taken on January 15 2013

The white-washed walls and the welcoming guards at the main gate are just a veneer beneath a story of negligence and a pervading motif of grime.

The stench assails your nostrils as you enter this ward in a place that prides itself as Kenyas largest referral maternity hospital.

It is the 354-bed capacity Pumwani Maternity Hospital where a drop of water is as precious as the first breath of fresh air is to the newborns.

Mary Wekesa, 29, gave birth to her first born on Monday night and is yet to take a birth herself, leave alone give one to her newborn.

Sent husband

Caroline Mwende, 32, is waiting for her husband to bring her water during the lunchtime visiting hours as she did no manage to salvage enough last night when water trickled through the taps.

You fetch water at midnight if you are lucky enough to find it trickling, she told the Nation.

For the last three days, Nation journalists made visits to the hospital posing as patients to ascertain claims of water shortage and poor hygiene. They interviewed patients whose names have been disguised after they sought confidentiality.

After going through security checks, there was the stairway leading to the wards whose windows could do with a wash and shine.

The toilets cannot flush, and the bathrooms are slippery with grime; users have to balance between pinching their nose and proceeding with their business in the washrooms.

Leaking taps, blocked drains, and heaps of rubbish in the wards are not what you would associate with the chief maternity hospital in the country.

The washroom in Ward Two is an eye sore and patients have to hop, skip and jump in order to use it. The laundry room in most wards are for storing equipment that have broken down.

Seemingly oblivious of the filth, expectant women take a bath in the bathrooms with the little water they   can save. The cleaning staff may be accused of sleeping on the job, but the hospital administration cannot escape blame either for failing to raise standards.
Patients interviewed agree that the hygienic conditions are terrible, but choose to simply deliver and return home.

I requested my sister to bring me at least four litres of bottled water to wipe my new born, a mothers admitted to one of the wards said.

Faustina Chao corroborated, adding the situation was the same when she delivered in July last year. I was admitted in Ward Five and there was no water. I had to ask my husband to bring me water during the visiting hours.

Established in 1926 by the Lady Griggs Welfare League as Lady Griggs Maternity, the hospital caters especially for the poor in Nairobi.

The hospital administration admitted there was a problem caused by locking some water points outside the hospital. Hospital secretary Sylverio Wanjira said plans were in place to install a 100,000 litre water tank to sort out the water problems.

“The project will be financed by the Nairobi Metropolitan through the City Engineer at an approximate cost of Sh4 million,” Mr Wanjira told the Nation on Tuesday afternoon.

However Nairobi Water Company corporate affairs manager Mbaruku Vyakweli, said their regional office had not been informed of any water problem at the hospital and that the locking water points as claimed by Mr Wanjira was not a measure instituted by the water company.

“We will investigate the claims, but Pumwani gets water six days a week as we rate it a facility whose water supply takes priority,” he said on Tuesday adding that Nairobi has a shortfall of 100,000 cubic metres per day.

On the blocked drains in the hospital, Mr Wanjira said maintenance is an ongoing process and that it would be sorted out.

Some patients further complained of rude nurses in particular wards who declined to help them whenever they sought help.

Corruption, financial crisis, lack of critical supplies for mothers and babies, mistreatment of mothers, moral and ethical decadence, and absenteeism among doctors, are highlighted in the report by a 10-member task force formed in 2011 after Prime Minister Raila Odinga visited the hospital and directed that an audit of operations be done.

Hospital superintendent, Dr Lazarus Omondi, declined to comment on the matter and referred it to the Nairobi City Council that is in charge of the hospital. Go and ask the Town Clerk, he said.





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