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January 19, 2019

Mbagathi hospital on spot for using condemned structure as maternity block

A cracked wall at Mbagathi maternity block on May 16. /JULIUS OTIENO
A cracked wall at Mbagathi maternity block on May 16. /JULIUS OTIENO

Mbagathi hospital is on spot once again following the continued use of the condemned Sh220 million new maternity blocks by mothers and their babies. 

The county engineers last month found the 120-bed capacity building, constructed in 2014, structurally unsound following cracks that had emerged on the walls and ceilings.

On Wednesday, the Star journalist was forced to use a security guard at the facility to access one of the rooms after waiting for more than five hours to be given access by the management.

There were only two patients in the room. The room’s ceiling was leaking and had worn out and cracks appeared on the walls.

“I was brought here yesterday because all the other wards are full. It smells all over,” one of the mothers who was yet to deliver at the time, said.

Outside the building and in the toilets, the situation was the same – tiles have worn out and taps broken.

The Star observed normal operations at the new maternity wing with mothers streaming in and others leaving the facility after successful delivery.

"We are working as usual. Yes, there are problems with some of the rooms, but we have not been instructed not to admit patients there," a nurse said.

Documents seen by the Star shows that the city engineers inspected the building after former Health services chief officer Thomas Ogaro wrote to Public Works chief officer Fredrick Karanja to access the structural integrity of the building following the cracks.

Ogaro wrote to Karanja in a memo dated March 1, 2018.

It reads in part, “The maternity wing which was constructed some few years back has exhibited certain structural defects that have led to the water leakages from visible cracks in the walls and ceilings. This floods the floor and creates electric currents that expose patients and staff to electric shock.”

Ogaro said that the drainage system was also experiencing frequent blockages and backflows resulting into unsanitary condition, exposing staff and patients to infections.

In his response, Karanja said that after investigations, his engineer’s recommended the closure of the maternity wing and evacuation of all patients. He also recommended an audit of the building by a team of professionals –architect, structural, electrical and mechanical engineer.

Karanja’s response reads, “Inadequate strength of the structural elements of the building as evidenced by the appearance of the cracks on the walls, slabs and beams.”

The engineer said there was deformation and sagging on the beams, leakages on the walls, floors and roofs and there was no proper drainage systems for both foul and stormwater.

Health executive Hitan Majevdia said that though the building had shown cracks and was leaking on the ceilings, he disagreed with Karanja’s condemnation of the structure.

“I don’t agree with the engineers because there is no way you can condemn a building by mere physical appearance. I have already sent an independent engineer to do a special audit and give me a report by tomorrow. From there, now we will make a decision,” Majevdia said on the phone.

Majevdia said, "From my own assessment, the building was not 'treated" well. It was painted before the concrete dried. So the cracks are as a result of the expansion and contraction."

But speaking to the Star yesterday, National Construction Authority and the Nairobi County Urban Planning department denied being aware of the Mbagathi case.

“I am not aware that there is an alarm raised over any building in Mbagathi Hospital hence that is a laxity by the county as they should inform us,” said Moses Nyakiongora, building inspectorate director, said.

Nairobi urban planning chief officer Justus Kathenge on his part said that the maternity was on public utility hence not the jurisdiction of the county.

He also denied having information about the evacuation of mothers from the hospital.

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