Abdirahman Abdi is a distressed man.
At his home in Umoja Village, Tana River County, he is yet to come to terms with the death of Hamido Dakane, the mother of his two children.
Ms Dakane succumbed at Hola Referral Hospital on Thursday last week after waiting for eight hours for a caesarean section that never materialised.
Five days since she was laid to rest, Mr Abdi is still troubled by the last moments they shared before she died.
He stares blankly into space, lost in deep thoughts.
Ms Dakane was rushed to Hola Referral after she developed labour pain at 9pm on Wednesday, said her mother Roble Gamano.
On arrival, she was admitted to the maternity and neonatal wing, where they were advised to wait.
“We sat there waiting as the nurse told us the patient was a candidate for a caesarean section but the surgeon was not around and had to be traced,” she said.
Writhing in pain
Three hours later, there was no help as the patient writhed in pain.
The distressed nurse came to stay with the family as she tried to make calls to various doctors in vain.
One surgeon picked up the phone at 2am and asked the nurse to refer the patient to another hospital as the theatre was not fit for the procedure.
“The surgeon said there weren’t materials necessary for the operation and recommended that my daughter be referred to Garissa,” she recounted as tears rolled down her cheeks.
But the family was advised to lie to the hospital in Garissa about where they lived or they would not be attended.
“They told us to say we were from Charidende, which is 70km from Hola, yet we came just 14km from Hola hospital. We found it absurd,” she said.
Meanwhile, another challenge developed as they were waiting for the referral note. The nurse informed them that the hospital could not find an ambulance driver on standby.
Drivers not picking calls
All drivers lived outside hospital quarters and were not picking up calls, while the handsets of others had been switched off.
At 3am, one driver managed to pick up his phone but insisted on going for his morning prayers at a mosque before he could report to work.
The family’s efforts to persuade him to come to their rescue failed, as he dismissed them, telling them they should have taken the patient to Garissa Hospital early if they were in a hurry.
He later called the nurse in charge and told her the ambulance did not have any fuel and the family should raise money to facilitate the journey.
“The nurse asked us to fuel the ambulance because the one available did not have fuel. We were asked to raise funds to buy 70 litres of fuel needed,” noted Daud Gulicha, a family member.
While the family called for support from friends and relatives, Ms Dakane gathered her last energy, sat up, hugged her husband and breathed her last, in his arms.
“She told the husband she could not take it anymore and informed him she was dying,” said Mr Gulicha.
Immediately after, Mr Abdi lost consciousness and had to be revived with first aid.
At 5am they bundled Ms Dakane’s body into a Toyota Probox and left for home to prepare for her burial.
Ms Dakane will forever remain a dark memory for Mr Abdi. She was buried with the infant still in her belly.
The family is seeking advice from lawyers, as they plan to sue Hola Referral Hospital and the county over the death of their kin.
Hassan Mohammed, the family spokesman, said Ms Dakane could have survived had the hospital acted responsibly and promptly.
He noted that the hospital knew the patient’s record and condition and should have made arrangements for her to get help immediately after she arrived.
“This woman delivered twins right in this hospital, and another child, all through caesarean section, so this was not a new case,” he said.
Hola Referral Hospital, human rights activists Daud Dahir said, has turned into a death trap for expectant women.
The county Health department is financially incapacitated by operatives who chase after allowances instead of focusing on servicing residents, he said.
“The doctors are lazy and so is the hospital administration. They are always on trips and holidays, leaving the hospital deserted and key services crippled,” he said.
He noted that civil society groups will bring a motion of impeachment against Health executive Javan Bonaya, urging MCAs to act promptly.
Push for justice
He also urged civil society groups like Muhuri and Haki Africa to provide affected families with lawyers to push for justice.
At least 10 deaths have been reported in the hospital’s maternity wing in the last six months.
Mr Bonaya and Health Director Oscar Endekwa did not answer phone calls seeking comment.
Services at Hola Refferal Hospital have deteriorated, leaving residents to go to Mombasa and Kilifi counties for help.
Last month, Garissa and Kilifi counties wrote a letter to the hospital barring it from referring patients to their facilities without prior consent.
This was after it emerged that the hospital was referring patients with minor cases that could be handled at the facility.
In one day, Tana River hospitals referred up to six patients to hospitals in the two counties.