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The painful tale of losing a frontline health worker to suspected Covid-19 in Wajir



BY: Ahmed Abdi Kheyley

Today is a dark day for Wajir County and more specifically Wajir county health workers fraternity. This is after we lost a veteran public health expert with an experience of over 30years to suspected Covid-19.

The senior PHO was facilitating a training in the remote villages of the vast county where he was capacity building the community workers on the prevention and control of Covid-19. The late Abdi Yussuf (May Jannah be his final abode) was referred to Wajir for further management after his situation couldn’t allow him continue with the training.

However, what he encountered at the same facility he sought specialized treatment is possible only in a horror movie. The much hyped Regional Referral Laboratory cannot test Covid-19 anymore due to lack of basic reagents. As we speak the sample of our late brother that was collected yesterday at 11am was only ferried to Nairobi by road today almost midday after family pressure.

The sample hasn’t reached Garissa yet. For anyone who sort Covid-19 test in Wajir regional referral laboratory has to wait for minimum one week to get results from Nairobi. More disheartening is the fact that Wajir County Referral Hospital doesn’t have oxygen. This is a bare minimum basic necessity that is in between life and death for any health facility. I am reliably informed by his colleagues who visited him that our brother passed on while asking for Oxygen.

He was fixed with a faulty oxygen system last night which couldn’t be of any help. Since the hospital has no oxygen and to cover up this mess, the hospital management borrowed an oxygen cylinder this morning from one of the local private health facility but funny enough there was no oxygen flow-meter at the county referral hospital. This is a device that regulates the amount of oxygen given to the patient and without one therefore, the borrowed cylinder remains useless.

The staffs then sought to pluck a flow-meter from one of the ambulances. This was however too little too late… and our brother passed on gasping for oxygen. Remember, a multi-million oxygen plant procured by the last government remains non-functional at the Wajir County Referral Hospital due to lack of basic maintenance by the current regime.

This is a plant that can supply the entire Referral Hospital. Mandera County Referral Hospital has three such facilities that are fully functional and is oxygen sufficient. The National Covid-19 Preparedness Task Force led by Dr Gerald Macharia who visited Wajir County for Covid-19 preparedness assessment last Monday were shocked to find that there is no oxygen at Wajir county referral hospital.

The team recommended that the health department procures oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators even before they share their finding as this is life-saving. The national team is to share their findings next Tuesday 28th July 2020. Barely four days later, we lost a gallant officer on the same circumstance.

Staffs at the Wajir county referral hospital are a stranded lot as all the empty cylinders are awaiting refill but with no budget. This is a department that brags of a 2.4Billion annual budget plus donor supports. Where this monies go…..your guess is as good as mine. Wajir County should bench mark its Covid-19 preparedness to Kotulo (Mandera) Sub-county.

This is a recently established sub-county but their level of preparedness and equipping of their Covid-19 isolation facility is out of this world. Interestingly, this is happening against the expenditure of a whooping one hundred ninety four million (194million) shillings to fight this pandemic which is since committed. Thirty eight (38) million extra from the national government towards the fight of the pandemic is be used up before the end of next week.

Reliably, twenty six (26) covid-19 suppliers’ cheques were cleared yesterday in one of the local bank (name withheld). These are NYS like air suppliers in the name of Covid-19 supplies. What is going on in the health department is an affront to devolution and more especially if universal health care and the President’s Big Four Agenda are to be realized in Wajir County.

Unfortunately this impunity is happening in such a vital docket despite the existence of an established committee that has the powers to summon those stealing from the sick and vulnerable. It is time to say no to the misuse by the Wajir County Government of this much needed resources and save Wajir County residents against the twin pandemic of Covid-19 and wanton corruption before the entire populace are wiped out by Corona!

~The writer is a teacher


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