BY EMEKA-MAYAKA GEKARA
Everlyn Namukhula should be alive to take care of her nine children. The woman who gave birth to quintuples in March died a month later.
Namukhula gave birth to quintuplets at Kakamega County Referral Hospital on March 12. She was transferred to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital Eldoret, three days later after two of the children developed breathing complications.
The two kids died, leaving behind three. Doctors had said the children needed to undergo what is known as Zipap in medical terms, which is the improvement of oxygen circulation in their bodies.
Their mother who made warm national headlines, died a few days later. The 28-year-old woman had four other children.
An autopsy showed that she succumbed to a condition known as peripartum cardiomyopathy or weakness of the heart muscles.
According to the American Heart Association, Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), also known as postpartum cardiomyopathy, is an uncommon form of heart failure that happens during the last month of pregnancy or up to five months after giving birth. Cardiomyopathy literally means heart muscle disease. It has no known cause.
It is a condition in which the heart chambers enlarge and the muscle weakens. This causes a decrease in the percentage of blood ejected from the left ventricle of the heart with each contraction. That leads to less blood flow and the heart is no longer able to meet the demands of the body’s organs for oxygen, affecting the lungs, liver, and other body systems.
Dr Benson Macharia, a pathologist at the referral hospital, explained that the condition occurs to all mothers and is not always fatal, but her case was exceptional because of multiple births.
Doctors found out that the heart was slightly swollen.
Another doctor, Wilson Aruasa who is the hospital boss, said Namukhula died as she was being taken to the ICU.
According to Dr Aruasa, the mother had an enlarged heart with fluids around it. Her lungs were also enlarged with fluids.
She had been put on treatment to control the possibility of a blood clot in her veins, because she had delivered through a caesarean section.
No doubt, Namukhula’s death shook the country and sparked of murmurs and debate about her handling at the Eldoret-based hospital.
An argument was made that the fact that such a “special mother” would die in such circumstances is a disturbing indictment of the impotency of our medical system.
It was hoped that the medical fraternity would have summoned its best talent and tools to protect the woman and her children.
A pathologist who spoke with the Nairobi Business Monthly in confidence not to antagonize her colleagues described Namukhula’s death as “an act of both negligence and incompetence.”
“The famous death has put a stain on our health system. Given the multiple births, the doctors should have reviewed the patient thoroughly to assess possible risks. It sounds like they threw caution to the wind,” she said.
But Dr Allan Kimani, a Nairobi-based physician defended his colleagues, arguing that the condition was uncommon and the multiple births could have posed a challenge to medics anywhere. According to the medic, the symptoms of the conditions can be severe but largely unnoticeable.
However, he points out that the patient should have been exposed to extra care.
Significantly, Namukhula’s death turned a spotlight on First Lady Margaret Kenyatta’s Beyond Zero campaign.
According to its founding statement, the campaign was inspired by the realisation and knowledge that maternal and children deaths are preventable.
“Beyond Zero is a call to action for policy prioritisation and formulation, increased resource allocation, improved service delivery and better individual health-seeking behaviors and practices.
Launched in 2014, the Beyond Zero campaign has been raising funds and supporting initiatives geared to prevent mothers from dying while giving birth.
One would have expected Namukhula plight should have been an important rallying call for the Beyond Zero crusade but there was not sufficient outrage from that corner.
Her transfer from Kakamega Referral Hospital to Eldoret also points to inadequacies in most county referral hospitals, mostly attributable to poor management, inertia, and lack of cash or theft.
This explains why county government bosses, mainly governors fly to Nairobi for treatment, running away from health institutions they preside over.
On corruption, take the case of the Sh800 million container mobile clinics, which have been rusting in Mombasa for four years because they are entangled in a scandal.
They were meant to improve health services in counties. Among the services maternal health, childcare and emergencies. They were meant to be distributed to counties including Kisumu, Nairobi, Murang’a, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kericho, Nakuru, Nandi and Makueni.
Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache last month told Parliament that the ministry will need about Sh336 million per annum to run the clinics.
Transportation to various sites around the country and medical supplies are expected to cost the taxpayer Sh330 million.
And to operationalise them, the government will need to build toilets in them and get connection to water and electricity.
They will also need a waiting bay where patients will queue awaiting treatment.
Kenya Revenue Authority filings revealed that Estama Investments, the firm contracted to bring in the medical equipment, bought each of the 100 clinics at Sh1.4 million and sold them to the government at Sh10 million each, laughing all the way to the bank.
An audit revealed that the ministry paid Sh800 million for portable clinics before installing, commissioning and handing them over, thus contravening the contractual agreement.
According to the contract, Estama was meant to supply, install, commission and hand over the 100 clinics at a cost of Sh1 billion.
No government official has been brought to account for the scandal. Meanwhile families continue to lose members due to preventable deaths.