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Residents demand closure of centre for mentally challenged, claim patients have COVID 19

A  group of youth on Monday evening stormed a private holding centre for mentally ill people in Shanzu demanding its closure.

The youth said the holding centre is risking their lives alleging some of the recovering patients have Covid-19, a claim refuted by the proprietor of the centre, Ms. Amina Abdalla,.

“We do not want people bringing corona here! We do not want to be locked down like Old Town!” the youth shouted.

Police had to come in and disperse the rowdy youth, most of who were intoxicated. Three people were arrested, including a woman and her son, in the immediate neighbourhood. Police say the woman had incited the youth, who threatened to burn down the facility.

Roseline Wamaitha, said Shanzu has not reported any case of Covid-19 and they would like to maintain the status quo. She claimed some of the patients had the corona virus and proposed they be relocated to Port Reitz Mental Hospital.

“For the last two to three weeks, we have received people here who we don’t know,” said Wamaitha, further alleging there were 55 patients crammed in the three-bedroom house, a claim the proprietor of the facility countered.

Abdalla said there are only 38 recovering patients after 17 of them recovered fully and were discharged.

“This is a project that I started months ago and there were five of them who tested positive for Covid-19 but we managed them until they recovered,” said Abdalla.

“None of the patients here are Covid-19 positive,” she defended, adding, they are now looking for an alternative place to relocate the facility.

“I will not abandon these patients. They have become my responsibility. I do not want them in an unfriendly environment because it will hinder their recovery.

Lucas Bindi, a next door neighbour, said his eight-year-old daughter took a photo, from their balcony, of a man in his mid-50s taking a bath in the middle of the compound.

“You can imagine what this does to my daughter psychologically,” said Bindi.

He accused Abdalla of doing business with the mentally ill patients at the expense of the neighbours’ morals and comfort.

Bindi said they should have been consulted before the holding centre was set up in their neighbourhood, noting the isolation room in the centre shares a wall with his compound predisposing his family to Covid-19.

“It is 10 times better to have a Covid-19 patient around. We will take care of them. But mentally ill people with corona? There is no telling what they may do,” Bindi complained.

However, Abdalla said the statement was unfortunate and shows that society is indifferent, discriminative and negligent of persons with psychosomatic challenges emphasizing mental illness is a disease like any other and can affect anyone at any stage of growth.

“Our facility holds persons who were once successful entrepreneurs, professionals, university students who underwent depression, a qualified electrician, a professional hairdresser, elderly persons who experienced family neglect among others whose such predicaments would have been resolved through medical and psychological support,” said Abdalla.

She claimed the protest was politically stage managed. Abdalla had vied for the Kisauni MP seat in the 2013 general elections.

During the chaos, the County Public Health Chief Officer, Aisha Abubakar and her team were in the facility discussing the issue. The meeting was also meant to de-escalate fears that the patients had Covid-19 and could spread it.

Following the chaos, the county officials refused to address the press, saying they will issue a statement later.

The facility was first established at the Kenya Coast National Polytechnic in Mvita sub-county about four months ago. However, it had to be relocated to Shanzu after the institution sought to begin renovations in preparation for reopening and has been operating for the last three weeks.

By  Joseph  Kamolo

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