As the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in Kenya begin to rise, the number of severe and critical COVID-19 patients has the potential to quickly overload the local healthcare system beyond its capacity to treat people.
The purpose of this study was to gather information about the ability of hospitals in Kenya to provide emergency and critical care services and to identify priority actions for use by policymakers and other stakeholders as a roadmap toward strengthening the COVID-19 response in the country.
This was a comprehensive review of the published and grey literature on emergency and critical care services in Kenya published in the last three years through April 2020. Screening of articles was conducted independently by the authors and the final decision for inclusion was made collaboratively. A total of 15 papers and documents were included in the review.
There is an urgent need to strengthen prehospital emergency care in Kenya by establishing a single toll-free ambulance access number and an integrated public Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system to respond to severe and critical COVID-19 patients in the community and other emergency cases. Functional 24-h emergency departments (EDs) need to be established in all the level 4, 5 and 6 hospitals in the country to ensure these patients receive immediate lifesaving emergency care when they arrive at the hospitals. The EDs should be equipped with pulse oximeters and functioning oxygen systems and have the necessary resources and skills to perform endotracheal intubation to manage COVID-19-induced respiratory distress and hypoxia. Additional intensive care unit (ICU) beds and ventilators are also needed to ensure continuity of care for the critically ill patients seen in the ED. Appropriate practical interventions should be instituted to limit the spread of COVID-19 to healthcare personnel and other patients within the healthcare system. Further research with individual facility levels of assessment around infrastructure and service provision is necessary to more narrowly define areas with significant shortfalls in emergency and critical care services as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country increase.