The Effects of Kenya’s Medical Workers Strike Are Felt at Tabitha Maternity Home

Written by Stella Mwendwa, Tabitha Maternity Home Head Nurse

Jackline is one of many mothers who have delivered at Tabitha Maternity Home during the Kenyan healthcare workers’ strike (Photo credit: CFK Africa).

Operating 24/7, CFK Africa’s Tabitha Maternity Home has always kept its doors open to the community, even during times of uncertainty and unrest. The current Kenyan Medical Workers Strike is no different.

Since Kenya’s doctors went on strike beginning March 15, we have seen an influx of patients at our maternity home seeking services, with delivery numbers increasing significantly.

Jackline Naliba is a 20-year-old first-time mother who traveled a long distance, seeking care from several health facilities, before ultimately landing at our Tabitha Maternity Home for delivery. Her story represents the struggles that pregnant women are facing in pursuit of safe and skilled deliveries during the strike.

A Long Journey to Birth

In her last trimester, Jackline was eagerly anticipating giving birth to her new baby. On April 2, she was woken by contractions at 10 pm, a sign that labor had now set in. Together with her husband, the first-time mother took a motorbike 5km to a sub-county hospital to deliver. To their surprise, they were turned away due to the striking doctors and were advised to go to a national referral hospital 10km away.

As it was late at night, there were no public vehicles. They opted again to board a motorbike at around 1 am, arriving at a national hospital where they met long lines and over-taxed staff.

Driven by the increasing intensity of her contractions, Jackline made her way to the hospital labor ward. “There were a lot of expectant women waiting to be attended to,” Jackline described, “some were crying in desperation as they exited the labor ward after being turned away.”

After waiting for 30 minutes, it was Jackline’s turn to be seen. The contractions were increasing with every minute. She entered the examination room where she met a nurse who told her that they would not be able to attend to her due to the doctor’s strike. At this moment, Jackline cried, fearing the worst. Yet she did not give up. She and her worried husband decided their best option would be to travel to a private facility back in their town to deliver. Yet upon arriving there, they were told that a deposit of Ksh 20000 ($150 USD) was required to be seen – an amount that they did not have. They then journeyed to a private hospital in Nairobi, yet the situation was the same: a large fee was required before they could be seen.

Time was almost running out, and Jackline was becoming very exhausted and desperate to give birth. While they were standing outside the gate of the private hospital looking helpless, a motorbike rider noticed them and asked if they needed help. It was here where Jackline was introduced to CFK Africa’s Tabitha Maternity Home. Jackline boarded yet another motorbike into the heart of Kibera, where she was finally attended to by a group of midwife nurses.

A Successful Delivery

After 24 exhausting hours of seeking medical help, Jackline finally gave birth to a healthy, bouncy baby girl weighing 3.1kg at Tabitha Maternity Home. Jackline’s excitement was noticeable as she could not hide her joy and happiness while thanking CFK Africa for serving women and children, even amidst the doctors’ strikes.

Jackline’s story demonstrates the impact of the current strike on Kenyan mothers who cannot afford private healthcare. CFK Africa’s Tabitha Maternity Home is filling the gap, delivering 50% more babies during the strike thus far and accommodating as many mothers in labor as possible.

During the medical strike, our team is confronting new challenges, including difficulties referring cases of emergency obstetrics that require specialized care. With government facilities non-operational, mothers who require emergency services are forced to go to private facilities, which are expensive and out of reach for the community that we serve.

Tabitha Maternity Home remains committed to the women and children in the heart of Kibera and beyond, especially during times of crisis.

Jackline and her husband with CFK Africa’s skilled healthcare staff (Photo credit: CFK Africa).

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