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How a Bank Donation Has Made COVID-19 Situation at a Kenyan Catholic Hospital Manageable

Bishop Joseph Obanyi of Kenya's Kakamega Diocese accompanied by Fr. Columban Odhiambo during the blessing of the new 19-bed capacity Renal Unit at St. Mary's Mumias Hospital. The initiative was realized in partnership with Africa Healthcare Network. Credit: St. Mary's Mumias Hospital/Kakamega Diocese

The leadership of St. Mary's Mission Hospital Mumias, one of the Catholic health facilities in Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese, is taking pride in the manner the situation at the facility has transformed, attributing the positive turn of events to a bank donation.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, September 1, the Administrator of St. Mary’s Hospital looked back at the challenging situation the Catholic health facility faced and explained how the donation from a Kenyan bank has made the hospital’s fight against COVID-19 manageable.

“First of all, the challenge that we had was the provision of PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) to staff, starting with the general staff and then those who volunteered to work in the isolation unit,” Fr. Columban Odhiambo said, reiterating some of the challenges he had shared with ACI Africa in a June 2020 interview.

Although the Catholic health facility had received a donation of PPEs from Niagara Warehouse of Hope - St Catherine Canada, Fr. Odhiambo said, the daily use of the protective material depleted the stock.

“As the pandemic sank deep, we started using the donated equipment sparingly because the price of PPEs on the market was very high. An N95 mask was going at one time for 1,500 shillings (US$15.00) a piece,” he recalled, and emphasized, “It was very difficult to meet such a cost.”

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Medical staff at St. Mary's Mumias Hospital donned his/her PPE. Credit: St. Mary's Mumias Hospital/Kakamega Diocese

The Kenyan Priest further explained, “When a medic leaves a patient’s bedside, the PPE must be removed and destroyed; the cost is 8,000 shillings (US$80.00) per set.”

To avoid a situation of total exposure to the pandemic, members of the staff at the hospital had to “recycle the masks by washing in order to keep going under the circumstances,” he further shared.

Over time, Fr. Odhiambo narrated, the stock of PPEs was eventually depleted and “we started buying them.”

“The impact was that this cost was to be passed over to the client; this made the care of a patient very expensive,” he said about the challenges the Catholic health facility he oversees had to grapple with, and added, “The cost of isolation was also expensive and most patients could not afford.”

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“The arrival of the donation from Equity bank was a blessing; that meant that we had an increased safety level for the healthcare worker,” the member of the Clergy of Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese told ACI Africa during the September 1 interview.

“We received the first consignment and now we are on sure supply of Personal Protective Equipment for the next one and half years. We do a report at the end of every month, and we get replacements; this keeps our stock intact,” Fr. Odhiambo said about the donation that the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) facilitated.

With the supply of the protective equipment assured, Fr. Odhiambo said, the medical staff “can easily don and off with the PPEs as required without having to minimize in the visits to the patients on account of trying to minimize the cost.”

Medical staff at St. Mary's Mumias Hospital donned his/her PPE. Credit: St. Mary's Mumias Hospital/Kakamega Diocese

The medical staff, the Kenyan Priest continued, “can visit patients as often as it is required, and when the raises alarm, they can reach out to the patient without any hesitation in the name of minimizing on the cost.”

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The donation of PPEs by the Kenyan bank enhanced the safety of the medical staff, Fr. Odhiambo said, and explained, “If the medical staff dealing with the patients who are infected are well protected, they are protecting the fellow staff members because in their interaction, then they are not exposing them to the virus.”

The protection is extended to family members, he said, adding in reference to the medical staff at the Catholic facility, “after work, they return to their families, safe in terms of infection.”

“The donation of the PPEs meant that there is a reduction in the cost of care for the infected patients in the isolation; the money that was used to take care of this cost is easily rewired to other expenditures around about the care of the patients because the treatment protocol had some drugs that were pretty expensive,” Fr. Odhiambo explained.

He continued, “When a patient is cushioned on account of the PPEs, then the money available can easily be channeled to the purchase of drugs that are necessary to attend to the symptoms that come with the COVID-19.”

The constant supply of PPEs “has made the situation manageable, compared to the initial situation when we were struggling amidst scanty resources,” Fr. Odhiambo reiterated and continued in reference to PPEs, “When they are available and they are being replenished on use, you simply give a report and request for a replenishment. So, you have no limit as to how and when you can put on the PPE; as long as there is a need, the staff will put on the PPE and proceed and attend to the patient that is before them.”

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The donation of the protective equipment has also been helpful in the process of taking samples from patients, the Administrator of St. Mary’s Hospital told ACI Africa, and explained, “the person who goes to take the sample for testing the Coronavirus has to be fully donned with the full PPEs.”

“So, with the PPEs, even the laboratory staff taking the samples will easily accept to go and take the sample because they have the necessary protection as they do the sample taking,” Fr. Odhiambo further said about the impact of the Equity bank donation to the Catholic health facility.

The continuous supply of PPEs is expected to continue for the next 18 months, he said, adding that at the expiry of the period, the situation of the pandemic will be reviewed in view of extending “the donation as long as the threat still exists.”

Medical staff at St. Mary's Mumias Hospital donned his/her PPE. Credit: St. Mary's Mumias Hospital/Kakamega Diocese

“We liaise with Equity bank, Mumias branch. The coordination is done by the branch and we have an office we report to,” Fr. Odhiambo said about the administration of the supply of PPEs, and added, “Since the donation came in through KCCB, we also report through KCCB.”

St. Mary's Mission Hospital Mumias of the Diocese of Kakamega is among the hundreds of health facilities run by the Catholic Church in Kenya under the auspices of the Catholic Health Commission of Kenya (CHCK).

Information on KCCB website indicates that through CHCK, the Catholic Church “runs close to 30% of all healthcare facilities in Kenya. The Church has an expansive network that consists of 451 health units (69 hospitals, 117 health centers, 14 Medical Training Colleges and 251 Dispensaries) and more than 46 Community Based Health and Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Programs.”