Outrage over mothers' rape claims at Kenya's top hospital

Friday January 19 2018

Lily Koros and Cleopa Mailu.

Kenyatta National Hospital CEO Lily Koros and Health CS Cleopa Mailu at the hospital on January 19, 2018. The Cabinet secretary said investigations are ongoing on allegations that patients have been raped at the facility. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Kenya’s top referral hospital has been put on the spot over rape claims of mothers made against its workers.

The allegations sparked nationwide outrage on Friday after a Facebook user accused the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) of being "a hotspot of all kinds of criminal activities".

Ms Mildred Owiso posted on a page called Buyers Beware that new mothers were being targeted on their way to the nursery, on a different floor, to breastfeed their newborn babies.

Ms Owiso alleged that she recently met a mother who was nearly raped.

“The only thing that saved her was her voice. She screamed her attacker off,” she wrote.

She further claimed petty theft was rampant at the facility.

"A lady dressed in Christian regalia was caught red-handed with her hand in another woman's purse," she wrote.

Her posts attracted many Facebook users who said they had been victims or knew someone who had been attacked at the hospital.

Many claimed that mortuary attendants harassed the women along the corridors to or from the newborn unit, which is located on the first floor, especially at night.

The claims were however refuted by KNH staff and management.

Lamech, a security officer at the facility, questioned why the alleged sexual abuse went unreported.

"How can rape take place in such an open place where so many people are always passing and witnesses fail to say it?” He posed, adding that “these allegations are part of a smear campaign targeting the management”.

Mirroring his remarks, the hospital’s chief executive Dr Lily Koros denied that mothers are sexually abused at the facility terming the allegations as “damning and untrue and authored in bad faith”.

She added that members of public of goodwill need to ignore.

"We have not yet received any complaints about attacks on patients. If any has been attacked, let them report to us for immediate action," she said.

Mothers are admitted in the maternity wards on ground floor or the paediatric wards on third floor, according to the hospital.

“KNH has 24 hours CCTV surveillance in the lifts, and along the corridors leading to all the wards including the newborn unit,” Dr Koros said, adding that a security team that includes uniformed officers patrols the hospital day and night.

She said babies at the nursery are breastfed in three-hourly intervals including at night and that the mothers "usually walk in groups."

“Mortuary attendants are uniformed, operate in pairs and collect bodies as guided by the coordinating office that receives reports on any deaths during the night. The attendants use service lifts which are separate from the lifts used by clients.”

The hospital management said it has contacted the Director of Criminal Investigations to probe the matter.

The Ministry of Health’s Cabinet Secretary Dr Cleopa Mailu has ordered an investigation and asked the hospital’s administration to beef up security.

Terming the reports “alarming” the ministry ordered KNH to provide a detailed report on Monday, January 22.

"We take this allegations very seriously and will investigate to establish whether they are true or false. We do not intend to take chances with the allegations," Dr Mailu tweeted.