On Sunday May 6, a 15-day-old infant from Wajir county died after an air ambulance service provider failed to airlift the baby to Nairobi for urgent specialised treatment.
The baby’s parents underwent a grueling experience as they watched their loved one breathe their last only because National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) failed to dispatch an air ambulance in good time to facilitate the referral to Nairobi.
Sources privy to the circumstances that led to the death of the baby confided to Correspondent that the baby could have been referred in time if Kwale Island Development Limited (KILD) which is contracted by NHIF to offer air ambulance services had the right aircraft to evacuate the infant.
“It now emerges the firm did not have a plane that would have evacuated the baby to be attended to as urgently as required despite being given the job by NHIF,” the source stated.
Correspondent found out the firm was given a tender by the health cover provider to offer emergency medical rescue of personnel in the civil service, National Police Service and Kenya Prisons Services through a fully equipped air ambulance.
Initially NHIF, had contracted African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) Flying Doctors to offer such services and was lauded for successfully airlifting 26 critically injured Garissa University College students to Nairobi during the April 2015 terror attack.
On the other hand KIDL hit the headlines for the wrong reasons after one of its pilots. Alistair Patrick Llewelyn, from Saker Resource Management Limited who had flown Deputy President William Ruto to a function in Nyandarua, allegedly assaulted a police officer.
On the material day the infant dies, AMREF control centre in Nairobi received a call from a doctor who identified himself as Hussein at Wajir county hospital requesting for the evacuation of the baby.
The source indicated that Hussein was informed AMREF was not legally mandated to provide air ambulance services for NHIF.
“About 15 minutes later, AMREF received another call from a man who introduced himself as Frederick from KIDL who asked why AMREF couldn’t evacuate the sick baby and was advised to contact NHIF director of operations Gibson Kamau to get the details explained,” said the source.
It is reported that two hours later at about 7pm, Marco Brighetti, the manager of KIDL’s helicopter services called Geoffrey Khalayi the coordinator of AMREF to request an ambulance on behalf of NHIF.
“He was advised to make the request to AMREF control centre through writing for legal purposes. KIDL sent an email through Hellen Dyer 30 minutes later. Prior to that, Hassan Ali the Prison Services commandant had called AMREF seeking to know where NHIF contracted air ambulance was and was advised to contact KIDL,” the source explained.
Khalayi of KIDL called Hussein at 9.45pm and briefed him about the hitch.
The latter stated he had been tossed back and forth by NHIF which finally advised him to call the air ambulance firm himself after he stated the baby’s condition was worsening.
By 10pm, the baby’s parents were still waiting and hoping for communication from NHIF and KIDL all in vain.
On Monday, May 7, in the afternoon AMREF offered to evacuate the baby on humanitarian grounds only to be told the infant had died the very morning.
The questions that remain unanswered following the incident are why did KIDL sought for AMREF services to evacuate the baby and how did they secure the tender for air ambulance services with NHIF without having the right plane and equipment to execute the job?
Attempts to get a response from NHIF regarding this story were unsuccessful as calls went unanswered.
Experts explained that helicopters are neither suited to nor recommended for long distance medical evacuation of this nature.
All this transpired after NHIF cancelled AMREF air ambulance services in September 2017 on grounds that the firm failed to present some vital documents.
AMREF disputed the claim by NHIF and went further to lodge a complaint before the Public Procurement Review Board (PPRB) which ruled in its favour and ordered that the tender be re-advertised.