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Coronavirus Denies Kenya of Top Medical Experts

The Covid-19 scourge has robbed Kenya of big medical brains, with reports indicating several top specialists are currently battling for their lives at various health facilities.

The country has been bleeding top medical talents ever since the coronavirus struck in March last year, with 32 health workers, 11 of them specialising in rare fields with very few practitioners, having lost their lives.

These include Dr Hudson Alumera, a periodontal surgeon and lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Dr Jackline Njoroge, who worked in internal medicine and Dr Ashraf Emarah, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon specialising in cleft conditions, who doubled up as a lecturer at the Moi University Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.

Others are Dr Vladimir Shchukin, a bariatric, general and laparoscopic surgeon, Dr Hudson Inyangala, a specialist in public health focusing on HIV/Aids and maternal, neonatal and child health (MNHC).

The list of fallen specialists also includes Dr Daniel Alushula, an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Robert Ayisi, a paediatrician, Dr Doreen Lugaliki, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Ndambuki Mboloi, an internal medicine specialist, Dr Antony Were, a nephrologist and Prof Paul Kioy, a neurologist.

The country has only 2,560 specialists and losing one has a ripple effect not just in the fraternity, but also among all Kenyans, who rely on their expertise built over long careers.

Given their small number, the country can hardly afford missing their services even for two weeks, the time required for persons with Covid-19 to go into self-isolation.

Dr Andrew Were, the president of the Kenya Medical Association (KMA), who is in the final year of studying for his master’s degree in plastic and reconstructive surgery, says it takes an average of 14 years to produce a specialist.

“It takes six years of medical school, a year of internship and another five to go for a master’s degree. After that you have to wait for two years before registration. Thus losing even one in a country with less than 3,000 specialists is a great loss,” he explained.

Dr Were said most specialists double up as lecturers and losing them means that even the next generation of specialists loses out because they have no one to train them.

“We already have a severe shortage of specialists in Kenya and the loss impacts negatively on healthcare and training since they double up as lecturers,” he said.

He said Dr Emarah, who died from the virus, was one of only nine registered plastic and reconstructive surgeons in the country.

Dr Emarah conducted surgeries to correct cases of cleft lip, a condition where a child is born with an opening or split in the upper lip. It occurs due to incomplete development of facial structures in an unborn baby.

The Nation established that a top neurologist was yesterday battling for his life in the Intensive Care Unit of a Nairobi health facility, just days after another neurologist, Prof Paul Kioy, died from Covid-19.

The hospitalised professor reportedly worked closely with the late Prof Kioy.

Data from the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KMPDC) shows the country has only 14 neurologists and 37 neurosurgeons. The data further shows that there are only two neuroradiologists in the country.

Neurology is the branch of medicine concerned with the study and treatment of disorders of the nervous system.

The grim picture is compounded by the revelation that Dr Were, who also died of Covid-19, was among less than 40 registered kidney specialists — also known as nephrologists — in the country.

Apart from the late Dr Were, three other nephrologists have contracted the virus.

Dr Andrew Suleh, a nephrologist and a mentee of the late Dr Were, said the fallen specialist charted a path for many by pioneering training of renal specialists in Kenya.

Dr Suleh added that as the president of the African Society of Nephrology, the late Dr Were had vast influence in the renal society on the continent and helped doctors get training in South Africa.

“He was also part of the team that created the East Africa Kidney Institute, a training centre for East Africa member states,” he said.

The death of Dr Alumera was a major loss considering that Kenya has only 12 registered periodontologists.

So was the October 30, 2020 demise of 60-year-old Dr Alushula, one of only 118 registered orthopaedic surgeons in the country.

Dr Lugaliki, the first medic to die of Covid-19 in Kenya, left a big emotional mark among Kenyans, some of who had sought the services of the obstetrician and gynaecologist.

She was one of the 430 gynaecologists in the country.

Her colleague in the field, Dr Chibanzi Mwachonda, said more could have been done to ensure her safety.

Dr Mwachonda spoke openly about what it is like for a medic to suffer from the coronavirus, adding that he has been agitating for all his colleagues to be provided with protective medical gear.

Some 3,056 health workers in Kenya have been infected with the virus, accounting for 3.2 per cent of the total number of positive cases.

Some of the medics contracted the virus in the line of duty, which has prompted their unions to agitate for better working conditions and protective equipment.

Written by PH

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