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Young entrepreneurs see opportunity in manufacturing ICU beds: The Standard

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Mungai Gathogo (left) and Joseph Kamau, skilled welders based in Githunguri, explain the different features of their viral unique locally made hospital bed, during an interview with Standard, on Monday, July 13 2020. The two, are one of few artisans who have come out to showcase their skills amid concerns over lack of isolation facilities in counties.[David Njaaga, Standard]

Mungai Gathogo and Joseph Kamau have always been ones to spot opportunity long before others can.

In 2017, aged just 22, Gathogo contested for the Kiambu County senate seat while Kamau, Gathogo’s longterm friend and collaborator in their current venture ran for the County Assembly seat of Githunguri Subcounty.
Both were unsuccessful, but that did not deter them, as Kamau tells Standard.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the duo saw a worthwhile opportunity. They swiftly registered a manufacturing and supplies firm, kicking off by supplying face masks and sanitizers. However, just a few months in, the business lost its profitability.
SEE ALSO: Recovered Covid patients ‘may lose their immunity’
“Everyone got into that business and it became saturated. So we thought about doing something else, an innovative thing where we would not have competition. That is when we decided to make beds,” says Gathogo.
Just three weeks ago, the Gathogo and Kamau ventured into manufacturing hospital beds, ideal for the Intensive Care Unit and High Dependency Unit, never mind that neither of them had prior experience in manufacturing.
“We are just entrepreneurs. When you see an opportunity you quickly rush into it,” Gathogo tells Standard from their workshop in Githunguri, Kiambu.
Kamau nods in agreement, adding, “We knew there is a need for these beds. Procuring this bed from China takes between three weeks and one month. Another advantage is that here we can modify the bed depending on the preference of the client”.
Mungai Gathogo (left) and Joseph Kamau, skilled welders based in Githunguri, explain the different features of their viral unique locally made hospital bed, during an interview with Standard, on Monday, July 13 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

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The duo’s bed is a high-end multipurpose one, complete with heavy-duty wheels, a drip stand, table stand to allow patients to have meals easily, space for the storage of an oxygen tank and hideaway bed rails. The bed is adjustable to the liking of the patient and can be disassembled for easier portability.
SEE ALSO: Exams, transition hurdle for schools owing to Covid-19
The adjustment of the bed is made possible by a manual adjustment mechanism, but Kamau and Gathogo tell Standard that they are currently working on adding an electric mechanism so patients can adjust the bed on their own, aided by Paul Wangaroro, their friend who is a mechanical engineer.
The entrepreneurs tell Standard that they already sold the prototype for Sh 150,000. However, the other beds are priced at Sh 65,000, which allows them to make quite a profit, considering that the estimated cost of producing each bed ranges between Sh 40,000 and Sh 45,000.
Gathogo and Kamau assemble the beds from scratch at their workshop in Githunguri, Kiambu County.
“The only components we source for elsewhere are the wheels and the raising gear,” notes Gathogo.
Since posting photos of the innovative prototype on Facebook on Sunday night, the response has been overwhelming, the duo tells Standard.
SEE ALSO: Bank vaults brim with cheap money
By yesterday afternoon, they had received more than 100 inquiry calls from potential calls, including hospital administrators, medical personnel and county governments, some calling from as far as Lamu.
The duo says they are confident that they will receive numerous orders due to the current urgent need of ICU beds in several counties across Kenya. Kamau and Gathogo also express optimism that they can efficiently fulfill all the orders they get. While they are currently leasing their equipment, including a spraying machine and welding machine, they tell Standard they are certain that with their own equipment, they can produce at least 10 beds daily, while increasing the number of their employees from three to more than 20, including welders, carpenters and painters.
But while Gathogo and Kamau just started manufacturing beds barely a month ago, Meshack Otieno, a self-taught welder based in Juja, Kiambu County, has been assembling beds for the last two years.
On Friday evening, he posted pictures of his ICU beds to an unexpectedly ecstatic reception on social media. Not long after posting the photos on the Facebook account of his ‘jua kali’ workshop, it was reposted across numerous Facebook groups and pages and made its way to other social media platforms like Twitter.
It has been an overwhelming last few days, Otieno reveals. When Standard visited, Otieno’s workshop was teeming with clients and about five engaged workers. So far, he has sold seven beds and is assembling more.
“I have gotten numerous orders already. I have not counted them, but they are many,” Otieno says. With a smile, he also reveals that even a certain county government has shown interest, although he admits that he is unsure if they will follow through and buy from him.
Since 2015, Otieno has been welding gates and doors. It was not until 2018 that he got the novel idea to assemble beds, thanks to one of his clients, who owned a hospital in Murang’a.
“My loyal client imported a bed from India. He then asked me if I can make such a bed. He asked me to make him a similar bed then he would pay later. He paid but did not collect the bed,” Otieno narrates the advent of his hospital bed assembly business.
When the client failed to collect the bed, Otieno opted to put it on display along the Thika Road highway. It did not take long for passers-by to start expressing interest in purchasing the beds.
“A police officer asked about a bed for his bedridden father. He told me his father’s story and I felt empathetic,” Otieno says, adding that his main motivation for assembling the beds is to help the sick.
He says he designed the bed according to the model he was shown by his client in 2018, but also to ensure comfort and efficiency for patients.
However, the bed assembly business never caught on. Since 2018, he had sold around just 10 beds.
As the Covid-19 crisis in Kenya worsened and the government imposed a curfew, Otieno temporarily closed his business. But in June, with times becoming harder, he opted to return to work and focus on making beds.
“I did not think Covid-19 would bring me business. I do not want to profit off the illness, because I am also a Kenyan,” Otieno notes, adding that he just wanted to showcase his beds with the Facebook post, rather than advertise them.
Otieno’s beds have similar features as those of Kamau and Gathogo’s beds, although they look sharply different at first glance. Otieno’s beds feature a metallic body with guard rails, a mattress, a mechanical lever, wheels, and a separate table stand that goes for Sh 6,000. Due to the metallic body, Otieno says the bed can comfortably hold even heavy patients.
Otieno retails his bed at Sh 25,000 but clarifies that profit is marginal.
“To be honest the profit is only Sh 1,000. Clients are complaining about money, so I just want to make a small profit for myself after catering for labour and other expenses
Currently, Otieno has five employees but at his full capacity of manufacturing 50 beds a day, he says, he can employ more than 20.
 “Do not import these items from abroad. We should not rely on people from other countries yet we can make them here,” Otieno pleads with the Kenyan government. His sentiments are shared by Kamau and Gathogo, who tell Standard that they are keen on conquering the market in Kenya and East Africa.
“This is a longterm plan. There is a Level 4 Hospital coming up at Githunguri. We want to be their main suppliers because we are from here,” notes Gathogo. They reveal that they plan o grow their business past Covid-19.
With support from the government, the young men hope they can grow their businesses, improve the economy by employing more workers and help the government and local hospitals with affordable solutions.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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