56 patients missing after escape from Kenyan mental facility

A woman carrying a baby walks past a sign showing the direction to the Mathari hospital on May 13, 2013 in Nairobi.

Story highlights

  • 61 patients from Kenya's largest mental facility escaped the hospital grounds
  • Medical workers in Kenya began strike action on Monday over pay
  • More than 24 hours later, just five of missing patients had been found.

(CNN)If doctors in Kenya were looking for a way to show their value -- it couldn't have come clearer.

Hours after medical workers', strike began on Monday, 61 patients from the country's largest mental facility escaped the hospital grounds, climbing an exterior wall and wandering across the Kenyan capital.
    "After giving treatment and going to the other wards the patients were left unattended and they climbed the wall and wandered away from the hospital," said Julius Ogato, Medical Superintendent of Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital.
    More than 24 hours later, just five of the missing patients had been found.
    A video shared by a local newspaper shows the time of escape as some patients casually walk, and others run away in their hospital clothing. The facility held more than 750 patients at the time and only five nurses out of 195 person nursing staff had showed up to work that day.

    Pushing for Better Wages

    As the strike continued across the country, patients have been turned away from treatment.
    The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPPDU) says the strike is intended to push for the government to implement a collective bargaining commitment signed three years ago, which advocates for increased doctor hires and better pay.
    Around 5,000 doctors are participating in the strike. Currently average pay for doctors is around $400 per month. Under the agreement, doctors would make around $1,000 per month.

    Social Media Response

    Kenyans responded to the strike by criticizing at political corruption, using the hashtag #lipakamatender or "Pay like you would a tender."
    Mathari hospital was the subject of a 2011 documentary, which profiled the crowded and extreme living conditions of the mental facility's residents, who complained of rape and forced medication administration and where the CNN crew came across a dead body which had apparently been left overnight.