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September 20, 2018

No patient died due to Safaricom network outage, says hospital

Patients at the newly constructed Maternity High Dependency Unit at Caost General Hospital yesterday. The unit was equipped by the Safaricom Foundation. Andrew Kasuku
Patients at the newly constructed Maternity High Dependency Unit at Caost General Hospital yesterday. The unit was equipped by the Safaricom Foundation. Andrew Kasuku

The Coast Province General Hospital yesterday denied reports that two patients died while queuing to make electronic payments.

When Safaricom suffered a network outage on Sunday, cashiers reportedly refused to take cash. Unconfirmed reports spread that a patient had died while on the queue.

Hospital chief administrator Iqbal Khandwala on Monday denied the reports that patients died in the queue.

“There is no shortage of anything and nobody has been denied any kind of services whatsoever,” he said.

Khandwala said cash transaction is allowed if the electronic system fails. “There was no failure of anything [on Sunday]. We have systems in place. Every system must have a backup. So we have a backup system which works very well,” the chief administrator said.

From September last year, the hospital issued a directive that all transactions must be done electronically, instead of in cash.

LONG WAIT IN QUEUE

As a procedure, unless it is an emergency, no one is treated before buying a medical book at Sh100, besides making other necessary payments.

On Sunday, a witness said patients were fainting while waiting to pay after standing in line for a long time.

Three weeks before the blackout, a mother whose handset lacked a ‘pay bill’ option, reportedly lost her critically ill son while struggling to pay.

“I was so outraged. Foam started coming out of the baby’s mouth but a passing nurse could not admit the months-old boy owing to the hospital’s policy,” a woman, who said she witnessed the ordeal, said.

She claimed the baby died. The Star could not independently verify her account.

four minutes

There is usually disruption when the payment system is down because the queue builds up fast.

On Monday the Star witnessed how the fee procedure is done. On average, it took about four minutes for one person to be served. A receipt was issued as a proof of transaction.

 A customer care staff member said there is an official line for payment for those facing difficulties.

CPGH is the only level 5 hospital in the Coast region. It serves about 1.3 million people. Other counties refer serious cases to the facility.

The county has said it needs a special financial allocation because of the burden.

Mombasa governor Hassan Joho said with additional funding, service will be greatly improved. But he said there have been “tremendous improvements” since he took over in 2013.

“Together with development partners, we need to synchronise our activities,” he said.

Joho gave the CPGH board a go-ahead to take loans from banks to further upgrade its operations and make “commercially viable investments”.

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