Lay Care-takers Inside Kenya’s Public Hospitals: Was There a Way Out?

Lay Care-takers Inside Kenya’s Public Hospitals: Was There a Way Out? We have already looked at the first part of lay care takers.  Today we look at  : Why should we expect care takers inside the public hospitals. Is that how far we had sunk as a country in terms of our health care system?

The picture above shows a typical market-like ward typical of public hospitals in Kenya

(Courtesy of an anonymous photographer)


Why must we expect them – interestingly, today some of the admission criteria (emphasis mine) questions in some hospitals included: Mtakaa na nani? Mko na nani? Nani atamchunga? In Swahili for ‘Who is staying in/rooming with you? You will be under whose custody?’

A good proportion of the space taken up by caretakers often in squalid living conditions. With no personal space for anyone and minimal to no privacy. See my previous posting on beds and cots figures . The picture below depicts such a ward:

(Courtesy of NASCOP)

If and when a patient had no caretaker one might hear a comment like – and this could come from anyone (including the staff) as in huyu hana mtu Swahili for ‘this one has no caretaker, or ‘is alone’. A neighbouring caretaker carefully observed, ‘it was not unusual that such unfortunate patients remained for days on end in the same clothes they came in. Whether they soiled or wet them, they were not removed’. Thus would it be excusable if a patient were unkempt or even neglected while in a hospital by …Who? Very crude question, but it needs to asked.

Seems to me that negative patient outcomes e.g. falls, pressure ulcers, nosocomial infections, near-misses and generally low-quality care was likely without these care givers. In quotes, it’s like – ‘Those who need proper care need someone to take care of them’.

One lady said ‘proper care means skin care, hygiene, feeding etc. We are the ones who give this not the staff. She added this concerning the fate of being left unattended ‘ukienda utamkuta vile ulimuacha’ Swahili for in case the caregiver were to be away the patient might be unattended during the stretch. “If the hospital staff could discharge their services as required, then there could be no need for us to have the caretakers,” a patient replied on why it was necessary to have one.

Caretakers in hospital just like those in home care have needs. What were these needs and how can we help meet them? In case the reader might be in the caretaking role some help is available on survival tips for caretakers from support groups.  Much of these concerns taking care of a sick loved one in homecare. One of the websites I keep a Tag on is Caring Bridge. We will look at it from the Kenyan perspective later.

Do you see care taking as a problem? Asking for your help in the way forward and spreading the word.


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