Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Anesthetic shortage in Kenya

Many medical operations take place in rural Kenya without the proper use of anesthetics. A local NGO says that one person a week dies from lack of proper anesthetics to numb the pain.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Protus Onyango gives us more details on the shortage in Kenya.

In areas like Turkana in the Rift Valley, and the North Eastern, Eastern and Western provinces people are enduring painful operations without any anaesthetics at all. This is according to James Kamau, a civil society activist and the chief executive of the Kenya Treatment Access Movement, a local non- governmental organisation.

Kamau says anaesthetics are only found in Nairobi and provincial hospitals. "In our visits across Kenya, we have witnessed cases where many health facilities operate on people without using anaesthetics. Surely, we shouldn't be letting (people), and particularly our children, undergo surgery without the use of anaesthetics?" he asks.

Dr. Frasia Karua of Gertrude Children's Hospital agrees. She says she has carried out clinical research around the country and found out that the shortage of anaesthetics is real and rampant in rural areas. Dr. Japheth Akwabi, the vice chairman of the Clinical Association of Kenya, who works at the Western General Provincial hospital, adds "many patients are operated on without these essential drugs."

Both experts and civil society say that an insufficient health budget, corruption and bureaucracy are to blame for this.

When Clare Anyango from Western Kenya broke her hand she was taken to a local nursing home for surgery and was operated on without anaesthetics.

"It was like hell. I was enduring the pain and thought the doctor would ease it. But when he started the operation, the pain doubled and I had to endure it for almost an hour. I wouldn’t undergo a similar exercise again," says Anyango.

Dr. Gilchrist Lokoer, who is in charge of Turkana District Hospital, says the situation is worst in Turkana.

"Many patients come to us for surgery but in most cases, we lack the anaesthetic machines, gas and sprays to numb their senses.

"For simple processes sutures, removing lumps or circumcision, we do them when patients are fully awake. For more serious cases, we refer them to mission or general provincial hospitals with good facilities and drugs," says Lokoer.

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