The number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in Kenya is discouraging. For a country with more than 40 million people, Kenyans have a reason to worry in terms of healthcare. The situation in some hospitals is dire, even in large referral hospitals like the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), one of the biggest in East Africa.
Majority of the hospitals are operating at more than full capacity with KNH, for instance, receiving more than 200 patients daily at the Accidents and Emergency Unit. The increased number of patients reporting a majority of the Kenyan hospitals, the facilities have remained overstretched with some of the sick being forced to share beds, and this is for the regular beds. ICU beds are the hardest hit.
Currently, KNH’s operating capacity has gone overboard. The 1800 beds available are always full, not with the average number of patients hosted daily ranging between 2,500 and 3,000. Other hospitals suffer the same fate as well.
The changes since a survey that was done in 2014 on 21 hospitals in Kenya with ICU facilities is still negligible. According to the survey, as of 2014, KNH had a bed capacity of 1,445 followed by Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital with a capacity of 734. The number of beds in all Provincial hospitals stood at 2,316 as for the 8 Private hospitals and 8 Mission hospitals covered by the survey had 1,203 and 853 beds respectively.
The situation with the ICU beds is pitiful. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ICUs should have an average bed occupancy of between 60 and 70 percent, which isn’t exactly the case with Kenyan hospitals.
Data from a publication by the Kenya Cardiac Society in 2017 showed the distribution of ICU beds as follows:
The edited version of the report added Nyeri Hospital with 8 ICU beds.
According to the data, the current total working ICU beds then was 74, with 31 others still under construction.
Compared to the 2014 survey, not much of a difference can be noticed as by then, the total number of ICU beds in the 21 hospitals covered was 130 with 59 ICU beds from private hospitals. The percentage of the ICU beds against the total bed capacity was and is still low to date.
As of May 2018, the largest hospital, KNH, had 37 beds in the intensive care unit for a population of 2,500 patients. The WHO recommendation means that the hospital should have at least 61 beds, which wouldn’t even be enough as noted by some experts based on the capacity of the hospital.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to calculate that the total number of ICU beds in the country aren’t enough to serve the public. Sadly enough, the beds aren’t the only problem. There is also an acute shortage of nurses and other working staff. KNH alone has a shortage of 800 nurses, and while the 227 doctors according to May 2018 records may seem enough, there is an immediate need for more.
Many of these hospitals haven’t expanded in years! Which is ironical because the national and county governments are clearly not doing enough to ameliorate the problem. A lot needs to be done for the common Mwananchi who cannot afford the excessively high charges of ICU beds in private hospitals.