The year 2020 has wrought many challenges, especially for the health sector, exposing gaps in provision of care to Kenyans. The Coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the need to improve critical care. As the coronavirus crisis continues to wreak havoc in the country, the need for accessible, critical care support services has never been more acute.
However, even before the pandemic, Kenya’s critical care system was already failing to meet people’s needs. The pandemic has exposed the mismatch between needs and available care, in particular specialist care and the workforce needed to run it.
Available data shows (see cover story) that only a few hospitals in the country provide critical care, with people in the rural areas highly disadvantaged and forced to travel long distances to access the services. Counties are facing critical ICU bed shortages along with personnel shortages. While the country has increased the number of ICU beds since March, lack of human resource is a major hindrance towards access to service delivery.
From the early days of the pandemic, the availability of ICU beds — and hospitals’ ability to treat people who need life-support equipment like ventilators to breathe — has been an important benchmark for whether the devolved health systems can handle outbreaks.
Our ability to care for critically ill patients in intensive care units (ICUs) has been thrust into focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ventilators and ‘surge capacity’ have become common topics of conversation.
The Ministry of Health indicated that Kenya had only 189 ventilators countrywide as of June 2020 to treat critical care COVID-19 patients.