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Ventilator donations sparks leaders’ tiff

A donation of five ventilators by the Ministry of Health to Taita-Taveta County as part of national government’s support to counties to boost war against Covid-19 has become a controversial gift that is threatening to derail coordinated efforts to beat the pandemic.

On Saturday at a burial in Taveta, the area MP, Naomi Shaban said the ventilators ought to be installed in health facilities in Taveta sub-county because all covid-19 positive cases in the county are quarantined in Taveta.

The veteran politician said national government had identified border-town of Taveta as a high-risk zone due to the proximity to Tanzania and also because of the high number of truckers who pass through the region daily transporting goods to Tanzania, Congo and Burundi.

“Taveta is the most vulnerable because of our location and also the number of cases we have. Those ventilators came to help Covid-19 cases. They are all in Taveta,” she said.

Rekeke Health Center, in Taveta, is the main isolation facility for all covid-19 positive cases in the county. The latest patient to be taken there was an inmate at Manyani Maximum Security Prison in Voi who tested positive on Saturday.

There have been grumbles from a section of residents in Taveta sub-county who felt the region was not getting government adequate support to deal with coronavirus cases.

However, the county has clarified that the ventilator donation was done after Governor Granton Samboja  wrote  to the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Mutahi Kagwe last month, requesting for additional support for equipment and material to fight Covid-19.

The County Executive Committee Member for Health Mr. John Mwakima said the governor had written on 16th May asking the ministry of health for support to bolster county efforts. Amongst other items requested include Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), ventilators and specialized ICU equipment.

“We are one of the few counties that benefited from the support by the national government. These five ventilators came because we asked for help,” he said.

He explained that in the letter, the governor had asked for all isolation centers to be equipped. However, the Ministry of Health asked the county to identify one Covid-19 treatment center where the ventilators would be installed.

On June 2, the Principal Secretary for Health wrote to the county acknowledging that Mwatate sub-county was an appropriate site and the county embarked on redesigning the facility to accommodate the ventilators.

“Health experts identified Mwatate due to a number of reasons. It is centrally located and also there is possibility of minimal displacements of patients as the machines are being installed,” he explained.

Already, a team from the state department of public works and experts from Ministry of Health toured the facility last week to inspect the progress of ongoing modifications to accommodate the ventilators.

The CECM cautioned against politicizing the noble gesture stating that there was no malice or favoritism in the move to have Mwatate as the treatment center. He stated that all efforts were geared towards identification and eradication of Covid-19 cases wherever they were.

“Our teams are all over the county doing the best they can. We all need support efforts that are meant to keep us all safe,” he said.

A fortnight ago, the government donated 15 tons of sanitizers to Taveta sub-county to boost efforts to fight the covid-19 pandemic.

The  County Commissioner, Rhoda Onyancha said the sanitizers would be given to frontline workers and other high-risk persons who were combating the virus.

By  Wagema Mwangi

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