The Shocking State of ICU Sections in Hospitals Across Bungoma County

A survey by a team of doctors shows that 50 per cent of patients receiving critical care in public hospitals die.

A study at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital published early last year found that 54 per cent of patients taken to the intensive care unit did not survive.

According to the research team that included Ms Wangari Waweru-Siika, then the head of the MTRH Intensive Care Unit and Mr Protus Kituyi, the chairman of the Department of Anesthesia at the Moi University School of Medicine, the high death rate is at par with similar hospitals in resource-limited settings, not only in Kenya, but worldwide.

The Intensive Care Outcomes and Mortality Prediction at a National Referral Hospital in Western Kenya was published in the National Institutes of Health journal in November 2018.

The Wikipedia defines an Intensive care Unit (ICU), also known as a Critical Care Unit (CCU) as a special department of a hospital or health care facility that provides intensive treatment medicine.

Intensive care units cater for patients with severe or life-threatening illnesses and injuries, which require constant care, close supervision from life support equipment and medication in order to ensure normal bodily functions.

They are staffed by highly trained physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists who specialize in caring for critically ill patients.

The medical staff at a facility determines which patient is admitted to the ICE. Patients may be referred directly from an emergency department or from a ward if they rapidly deteriorate, or immediately after surgery if the surgery is very invasive and the patient is at high risk of complications.

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Some common kinds of intensive care units are Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) which provide care for newborn infants, Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICUs) which provide care for children, Coronary Care and Cardiothoracic Units (CCUs/CTUs) which provide care for heart attack or heart surgery patients.

Others are Surgical Intensive Care Units (SICUs) which provide care for other surgical patients, Medical Intensive Care Units (MICUs) which provide care for patients with medical conditions who do not require surgery and Long Term Intensive Care Units (LTAC ICUs) which provide care for prolonged critical care needs patients.

Non-Intensive Care Units

Non-Intensive Care Units often make up the majority of beds in a hospital and provide a lower level of care. These units may also be called wards. Some common kinds of non-ICU units are: Neonatal units which provide care for ill premature infants and neonates, Women and infant health units which provide care before, during and after childbirth (perinatal) for mothers and for well newborn babies and Pediatric units which provide care for children younger than 19 years old.

Post-critical care (or step down) units which care for patients no longer needing ICU level care while Oncology units provide care for patients with cancer and immune system disorders

According to health experts, the state of the ICU departments in terms of equipment, medical installation and capacity is vital for any hospital seeking to provide standard health services.

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In Western Kenya for example, families could travel long distances to either MTRH or Medheal Hospital in Eldoret or at Agha Khan in Kisumu for specialized ICU services. This is because the said facilities are known for their specialization in the ICU department.

However, most deaths could be as a result of delayed treatment as patients spend much time on road to treatment.


A spot check by this writer in some of the local hospitals both public and private hospitals shows that a number of the facilities are either under-equipped or under-staffed.

In Bungoma County for example, with a population of close to two million people, there are less than 20 ICU beds which need to serve an average data of 2,000 critical cases that require ICU treatment per month ranging from road accidents (especially motorbikes) to other ailments. This means that on a daily basis, one bed has to serve at least 200 patients from across the County. Now where do the rest go? Your guess is as good as mine.

Additionally, most facilities have no ICU beds which is also required to serve prenatal, natal, post-natal, accidents, surgical, among other requirements.

In fact, In Bungoma County, the only known health facilities with specialized ICU sections capable of handling various calls at once is Lifecare Hospital Bungoma, a private facility.

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While confirming this, the Bungoma County Executive Cabinet Member for Health Dr. Antony Walela says there are currently no ICU beds at the Bungoma Referral Hospital but the County Government is already in plans to have an ICU section at the facility.

“Currently, it’s only Lifecare Hospital Bungoma that is equipped with ICU section but for the BCRH, we are building one and it will be ready soon,” promised Dr. Walela in a telephone interview with this writer.

A visit to Lifecare Hospital established that the facility has a total of 20 ICU beds including SICU and MICU with the administration already in plans to come up with additional seven more NICU beds.

A section of the ICU department at Lifecare Hospital Bungoma, the only facility with a standard ICU in Bungoma County. PHOTO/COURTESY

Other patients have to be referred to either Kakamega County Referral Hospital in Kakamega County or at MTRH.

The entry of Lifecare Hospital in Bungoma for example, has helped curb the burden of ICU cases that had been a thorn in the flesh of the residents.

This kind of data shows how there’s a critical need to equip our health facilities with ICU sections if we have to reduce the data of deaths, not only in Bungoma, but across the whole country.

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Simiyu Wakajuaness

Simiyu Wakajuaness is the founder of this news site, a scriptwriter, actor and stage director with ardent passion in media and public relations in this digital world. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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