A rusty gate welcomes you to Matungu Sub-county Hospital, one of the biggest public facilities in Kakamega. The green, black and white county colours are faded and the place looks rather run-down.
The diminishing of the colours and the casual look of the surroundings may as well tell you what to expect within.
Situated some 200 metres off the Mumias- Busia road at Matungu junction, the hospital has known tragedy a million times.
This is where former MP Justus Murunga was rushed for treatment but due to lack of medical oxygen, he died on his way to St Mary’s Mission Hospital, about 10 kilometres away on November 14 last year.
Matungu has a new MP and one would hope that his premier mission would be the refurbishment of the hospital.
One would anticipate that lots of changes have taken place and the tawdriness of the past reversed, but that seems to be a tall order. Shoddiness seems to be entrenched.
The two security guards at the gate paint a picture of a poorly managed institution. They don no face masks and take one’s temperature as a rite, a ritual, not for any useful end. There is neither running water on sight nor sanitiser.
Inside the hospital, men and women share wards.
Lack of medical equipment and human resources is derailing effective delivery of healthcare services. Staff members often complain about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs).
Although it collected about Sh42 million, hospital administrator Hillary Kiverenge said they only received Sh12 million from the county government for operations.
The facility serves Mumias West, Mumias East and Matungu sub-counties. Others are Mumias Model Centre, Shianda and Lung’anyiro dispensaries.
« Money raised here is taken to the county headquarters where procurement is done. This has led to increased bills, which by now have accumulated to Sh16 million, » said Mr Kiverenge.
Hospital superintendent Jairus Amunga said staff are sometimes forced to buy their own PPEs. « We used to have some money to supplement our operations but the system was moved to the county headquarters after procurement was centralised, » said Dr Amunga.
The laboratory is ill-equipped and ineffective for diagnosis of diseases.
« We are conducting a few tests because there are no reagents and other supplies required for testing. We are highly exposed and work without any special allowances. We don’t even have dust coats, » said a lab technologist.
The hospital has only two clinical officers and lacks medical oxygen that is critical for survival of coronavirus patients.
« We need more staff who can handle and manage Covid-19 patients, such as a laboratory technician, nurse, doctor, consultant and physiologist, » said Dr Amunga.
They often transfer patients in critical condition who require ventilators to Kakamega County Referral Hospital.
« There is no testing for diabetes or pressure here yet it is the biggest health facility in Matungu. We purchase our own drugs and other suppliers before they can attend to us, » said a patient.
There is a serious shortage of staff in the X-ray department and patients are usually directed to a nearby private clinic for help.
« The process takes longer and affects our clients who need urgent attention and specialised care, » said Dr Amunga, adding that the hospital was downgraded from Level Four to Level 3B in 2019.
The outpatient block is in a sorry state and Dr Amunga expressed fears that the roofs « could collapse any time ».
« There is recurrent termite infestation and we condemned the building fearing that we could be seated in the building and the roofs would fall down, » he said.
Senator Cleophas Malala regretted that the facility is not well prepared to handle Covid-19 patients.
« The governor (Wycliffe Oparanya) is absent. Come back to reality and serve the people who elected you. Move to the ground and see how Kakamega is rotting in your hands, » he said.
Mr Malala promised to move a motion in the Senate to discuss the healthcare situation in Kakamega. He vowed to invoke Article 177 of the Constitution so that the national government can take over health services in the region.
« We are not taking the health sector seriously. Our priority is on roads and other infrastructural projects at the expense of health. Who will use the roads if we don’t take care of our people? » he posed.
The senator questioned how the Sh500 million allocated to the county to fight the Covid-19 pandemic was utilised.
Matungu MP Peter Nabulindo urged the county leadership to renovate the hospital.
« It is shameful that patients have to source food from home. I was shocked to find men and women sharing the same ward. Where are our funds going? » posed the MP.
He echoed Mr Malala’s sentiments for the national government to take over health services. Support staff at the facility have allegedly not been paid for seven months.
« We’ve been coming to work for months without pay. We cannot raise school fees for our children. We have now been forced to sell items in our homes to sustain our families, » said Mr David Khaemba.
County health executive Collins Matemba blamed the Treasury for their financial woes. Dr Matemba said delays in funding had affected supplies, especially drugs, as well as salaries and wages.
« Once we get funding, we shall improve the health situation in the county to be admired by all, » he said.