Makueni has in the recent past grabbed headlines, all for the good reason, thanks to several trailblazing projects that the County Government has implemented.
From the Kalamba fruit factory, to the Kikima milk plant and the Universal Health Care programme dubbed Makueni care, the county has caught the attention of many admirers, thus playing host to both local and international delegations on benchmarking visits.
Last December, the county hit the headlines again, after the Department of Health unveiled a 120- bed capacity state -of- the -art mother and child hospital to bolster maternal health.
The hospital, opened by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is the first public health facility in the country to offer aqua birth services, the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water to reduce labour pains.
The third largest maternity unit in the country after Nakuru and Pumwani, the hospital provides an ultra-modern new born unit with 80 neonatal cots, twin operating theatre services and a Kangaroo mother care unit for pre- term babies.
The facility also offers gynaecological, obstetric, and neonatal consultation services, antenatal services and has a gynaecological ward, all targeting women of reproductive bracket.
Built at a cost of Sh.135 million, the model hospital which sits on the 24- acre compound of the county referral hospital, is part of the county’s universal medical scheme to provide quality services on motherly health and prevent both maternal and infant mortality.
Approximately 4,000 women die in Kenya annually due to pregnancy related complications, with haemorrhage being the leading cause of the deaths according to a confidential enquiry into maternal deaths in Kenya report released in 2018 by the Director of Medical Services, Dr. Jackson Kioko.
Speaking during the launch, County Governor, Prof. Kivutha Kibwana said the hospital was prioritized to ensure provision of the highest attainable standards of health as envisaged in the constitution.
“Health is a human right and our hope is that the facility will not only benefit local population but also residents of other counties,’’ Prof. Kibwana said during the inauguration.
And almost three months after inauguration, the maternal unit has recorded 634 births so far, according to the Nurse- in –charge, Loice Muthami.
Muthami says the number of women giving birth in the facility has increased significantly in the past few months.
“In January there were 263 births up from 225 in December. The record for February currently stands at 146 and the number is expected to increase before the months ends,” she added.
The nurse- in -charge further notes that majority of the births are normal deliveries.
“Most of the caesareans births were due to fetal mal-presentations cord prolapse, obstructed labour, impending rapture or rapture of the uterus among others,” she explains.
Although a big number of the women are from Makueni, the nurse said several patients come from neighbouring Kitui, Machakos and Nairobi counties.
The hospital is manned by 47 nurses and two gynaecologists assisted by medical officer interns and clinical officers on a need basis.
The facility has several units with an average of eight nurses per unit and according to Muthami more nurses are required especially at the new born unit.
Nine nurses are currently attached at the unit which has an average of 19 babies at a time, mostly pre-term.
“At least 10 nurses are required at the new born unit which now has 26 babies. Out of the total 21 are pre-term, the other five have birth related complications including breathing problems,” she adds.
According to the nurse- in –charge, most of their women clients are enrolled in the Linda Mama Programme which is offered by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and are therefore able to access the maternal services for free. Several others are also covered under the Makueni Care scheme.
Meanwhile, the new unit has been a blessing to mothers as the space for the maternal wing in the referral hospital was limited forcing patients to sometimes share beds.
“Every mother has a bed. There is a lot of space even for the staff and visitors. Besides, the mothers are given a free pack including a basin, a baby flannel, a pair of slippers, petroleum jelly and a soap, courtesy to the transformed health services,” Muthami said.
Some of the mothers who have given birth at the facility have nothing but praise for the services offered.
One of the beneficiaries, Cecilia Wangechi, 29, from Nakuru County compliments the facility for the warm care she received while giving birth.
Wangechi, a first time mother had travelled to Makueni on a work related assignment when she suddenly developed labour pains.
“I came here Thursday and delivered my baby boy. I am grateful for the care I have received,” she told KNA.
For Bridget Ngina, the quick intervention by doctors at the facility not only saved her life but also her daughter’s.
Ngina’s baby was born pre-term after she was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a pregnancy related complication characterized by high blood pressure.
The 23 -year- old was referred to the facility on January 18 from Mukuyuni Health Centre where she had gone for routine ante-natal clinic.
“I was told by the nurse that my life and that of my baby were in danger. I came here immediately. My blood pressure was high. After a few days of close observation by the doctors I was induced and delivered my baby at 30 weeks weighing 1.6 kilogrammes,’’ she said.
Due to the low birth weight, the baby was put in the new born unit and later moved to Kangaroo mother care room.
It was scary at first when I was told I have preeclampsia, but the support from the heath workers was overwhelming. I am very grateful,’’ she added.
Her daughter now weighs 2.1 kilogrammes, thanks to the Kangaroo care which she still practices at home.
“My daughter has progressed well. The doctors and the nurses were friendly and they taught me how to do Kangaroo care at home,” Ngina says with satisfaction.
For 40 –year- old Jennifer Mutinda from Ukia, a breech presentation of her baby landed her at the hospital. The mother of four had two normal deliveries and two caesarean births in the past.
“My first two children were born at home with the help of a traditional birth attendant but I couldn’t risk my third born who was breech. I came here at the referral hospital and had a caesarean section,” she said, adding that things at the facility have changed for the better.
“Previously we were forced to share beds unlike now where every mother has her own bed. Besides the facility quiet and very clean” Mutinda added.
In the meantime, the County Health Executive, Dr. Andrew Mulwa notes the number of women giving birth in health facilities increased to 60 percent from 19 percent in 2013 due to improved medical services in the region.
By Roselyne Kavoo