KENYA – Delayed launch of clinical guidelines causing needless deaths

In my earliest years as a health activist, I would often ask Joseph Karanja, a seasoned obstetrician gynecologist from University of Nairobi, if I could attend his practicum training for nurses and clinical officers.

Prof Karanja indulged my curiosity most times and allowed me, a lawyer with no medical background, to quietly sit at the back and observe. He was generous with his knowledge, and I was given my own sample pawpaw or watermelon to cut for demonstrations.

Soon enough, the joke became that I had attended too many of these Continuous Professional Development practicums that I should now become a certified ‘quack’ with an honourary medical degree obtained from listening to his lectures.

Whilst ‘Prof’ as we fondly called him, is no more, I remain an imparted learner from his guidance on the five leading causes of maternal deaths amongst Kenyan women. He was adamant that women must never die from preventable causes and that where interventions could be made early enough, there is no excuse for delays.

The Ministry of Health is yet to launch vital policy documents that aim to address the top five leading causes of maternal injury and deaths. This is despite circulating invitations to partners indicating that the documents would be availed by June 29, 2023. There has been a lot of resistance from the Catholic Doctors Association to launch these guidelines.

This unwarranted delay has only prolonged the suffering of Kenyan women, and I can only imagine what the lack of clinical guidelines means to medics and as they have difficult conversations with their female patients.

Essentially, the guidelines on the clinical management of the big five causes of maternal mortality were designed in recognition of years of evidence-based research. The data identified the top five causes as sepsis (infections), hypertension, obstructed labour, unsafe abortion, and post-partum haemorrhage (excessive bleeding after birth).

SOURCE: Standard Media Kenya, by Saoyo Tabitha Griffith, 12 July 2023