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Meru hospital performs first spinal surgery

Patients with spine and head injuries in Meru will no longer be referred to Nairobi for surgery after the county’s teaching and referral hospital successfully performed the first spinal surgery.

The spinal surgery, also the first in the Upper Eastern region, became a reality after the Meru County government hired a neurosurgeon for the first time early this month. 

A team of orthopedic surgeons and other specialists led by the newly hired neurosurgeon Dr Muthoka Mativo conducted two successful operations a fortnight ago, marking a major milestone for the hospital. 

According to Dr Mativo, one of the patients, a 23-year-old man, was involved in an accident and suffered a neck fracture while the other patient, an elderly man, has been living with paralysis.

Dr Mativo noted that with the support of the County government, the hospital has all the necessary equipment hence patients will no longer need to travel to Nairobi and outside the country for such services.

He revealed that the referral hospital has a skilled team to help him serve patients who have been travelling far to seek medical services.

Dr Kinyua Ndegwa, an orthopedic surgeon and head of the surgery unit, said the hospital has been attending to many accident cases that could not be treated before.

He termed success in spine surgery a big milestone for the hospital citing that they have been receiving many cases of head and spine injuries occasioned by road accidents.

He called on residents with spine or head injuries to seek help from the county referral hospital assuring that these cases can now be comprehensively managed.  

According to Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital CEO, Dr Gacheri Kathiiri, the successful spinal surgery is a boost to the management’s efforts to transform the facility into a specialized hospital. 

“We have been referring all our patients with spinal, neck and head injuries to Nairobi and many cases have had poor outcomes due to the distance. We expect another neurosurgeon next year and this will increase the number of patients being treated here,” Dr Gacheri said adding the medication of the two cases was paid for by the National Health Insurance Fund.


Dr Gacheri, noted that the hospital is in the process of phasing out walk-in patients as it transits to referrals only.

 She added that the hospital is also working on a one-bed-per-patient policy as well as back-referral, which allows patients to have surgery closer from home and shorten the treatment time. 

The specialist pointed out that the hospital receives more than 1,000 patients in its outpatient wing daily adding the institution which has a capacity of 335 beds, admits about 500 patients in its wards at any given time, leading to sharing of beds. 

“We would like the public to know that our level four hospitals now have specialists who can handle various conditions. We do not want patients to make the level five hospital the first point of contact. This will enable us to concentrate more on specialized care and referral cases,” Dr Gacheri said.

She  pointed out that  once the one bed  policy is in place, there will be no sharing of beds and encouraged residents to take advantage  of specialized services  being offered  at the  hospital instead of travelling  far  to seek same medical services.

By Muguoungo Judy

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