What ails Kenya’s public healthcare

At the new-born unit at Kenyatta National Hospital, Judy Nelima can barely sleep as she has to wake up once every three hours to feed her baby. She would have delivered closer to her home at Pumwani Maternity Hospital, where she had been attending her antenatal check-ups, but nurses are on strike there.

Her little girl was born pre-term, setting the little one on a path of a rough start at life as now she is more vulnerable to medical problems than the average baby born on term. The nurse in charge, Anne Kioy, is worried for Nelima’s baby and the other 180 in this 60-bed unit. She is doing all she can to make the mothers and their babies here as comfortable as possible, but with nurses on strike, and the unit stretched way beyond capacity, overwork and burnout are beginning to set in on the skeletal staff here.

Nelima, her baby, and nurse Kioy have found themselves in this situation because of a series of errors in Kenya’s public healthcare system. The incoming administration could save them and the tens of other Kenyans in the same situation, or it could as well damn them to more anguish and suffering.