This week’s reports of county hospitalsexperiencing an acute shortage of medical supplies are really depressing.
The shortage, we understand, has been occasioned by debts running into millions of shillings owed to suppliers, mainly the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa).
The crisis has led to hospitals doing without drugs, including Anti-retrovirus pills, and necessities such as bedding, water and food.
In Homa Bay for instance, the country referral hospital has had no drugs since November last year because of a Sh140 million bill owed to suppliers.
In Kiambu County, Tigoni Level Five Hospital and Kiambu Level Five hospitalsare in dire straits. The county owes Kemsa more than Sh100 million. It remains unclear when these debts will be settled.
In affected counties, patients are being asked to turn up with their own food, drinking water and blankets as a condition of being admitted to the health facilitates.
It has also emerged that hundreds of patients, in most cases, are being referred to buy medicine and undergo required tests in laboratories and private chemists outside these hospitals. Patients have had no choice but to seek services of external service providers whose professional competence no one is sure about.
Whatever the case, we believe the current situation obtaining in public hospitals is unacceptable. Kenyans pay taxes and deserve to get every important service without the slightest disruption. We challenge the government to put its act together. No life should be lost because of never-ending bureaucratic processes. We call upon counties to iron out their tiff with Kemsa so that procurement and supply of drugs can resume.
Although the Health docket was devolved, the national government shouldn’t sit back. Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki has her work cut out. She has to work with counties to ensure resumption of services.
While it is true we have made great progress in the Health sector in the last decade, we still have a long way to go. We take pride in counties like Makueni and Kakamega where plans to roll out universal health coverage are beginning to bear fruit.