Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko yesterday discovered 12 bodies of infants stuffed in boxes at Pumwani Maternity Hospital.
The bodies were wrapped in polythene bags and packed in three boxes in a store. One box contained one body, another six and another five.
Sonko made an impromptu visit mid-morning on a boda boda, catching the management and workers unawares. He said the visit was prompted by a video clip by a resident showing people ferrying bodies from the wards.
The hospitals has been plagued by baby theft, alleged negligence, poor services and mistreatment of patients for years.
Sonko suspended top management officials and the board.
Medical superintendent Catherine Mutinda and other senior officers were not present. The governor streamed the raid live on his Facebook account.
The cause of the deaths and why the babies were stuffed in boxes instead of taken to a holding room was not immediately established.
Sources at the facility said the infants died at the weekend, following a power blackout.
During the raid, an administrator told Sonko only one infant had died since Friday and that was the only body being kept at the facility.
“I have told you I had information that there were six bodies here. Why are you telling me it is only one?” an angry Sonko asked.
The administrator tried to defend himself saying, “The assistant chief nurse is the person who said that in the last 24 hours only one baby has died. I’m not the one. His excellency the Governor, these are bodies from Friday.”
But Sonko could hear none of it. He said, “Don’t play with me. When I came here, I had information that six babies died today. I don’t want jokes. Respect me.”
Sonko ordered the administrator to open another box that was hidden under a table. Five more bodies were uncovered.
“How can you keep dead bodies in polythene bags? I’m not a fool to come here on a boda boda. These are bodies of human beings. Don’t stuff them the way you are doing. I can slap you now,” he said.
County director of communication Elkana Jacob said only six of the 12 bodies were recorded at the mortuary. The rest were undocumented, raising suspicion.
“During the surprise visit, the governor was also surprised to find out how expectant mothers struggle to get prenatal care at the maternity hospital,” Jacob said.
Sonko suspended Mutinda, administration officers Zadock Angahya and George Nyadimo and obstetrician gynaecologist James Kamau for alleged incompetence.
The entire management board was also suspended.
“All those responsible for this negligence will face the full force of the law. I’m not going to allow this to happen to our mothers. They must take responsibility for the deaths,” the governor said.
After the raid, Sonko reported the incident to Pangani police station for investigation saying that it was suspicious for 12 babies to die at the facility in a day.
The maternity is run by the Nairobi government. Between 80 and 100 babies are delivered at the hospital each day.
Late last month, a woman was arrested while attempting to steal a three-day-old baby from the facility. The baby was in a backpack.
On January 6, 2015, twin babies were allegedly stolen at the hospital and it emerged the babies given to a couple after an alleged stillbirth were not theirs dead babies.