Governor Ngilu weathers political storm to roll out healthcare scheme

Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu speaks to health workers at the Kitui’s Kenya Forestry Research Institute on August 14, 2018. On Tuesday, the county government will roll out a subsidised universal health insurance cover. [Paul Mutua, Standard]
Buoyed by the recently successful brain surgery at the Kitui County Referral Hospital, Governor Charity Ngilu is going all out to deliver Universal Health Care (UHC).

In a new arrangement, the county is now seeking to have all its residents - and visitors - as well as their dependants under an annual cover.

All members will be required to renew their membership each year.

Dubbed the Kitui County Health Insurance Cover (K-CHIC), the scheme seeks to have all residents treated without them having to pay for health services out of their pockets. 

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This is not the first attempt by the governor who has had to fight political battles at the county assembly to achieve her dream. During her stint in the Health ministry, Ngilu tried unsuccessfully to have Kenya launch a UHC.

“This is a dream come true. I tried to get Kenya to have UHC between 2003 and 2008, but it was very difficult and did not work out,” said the governor.

UHC is the fourth in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda as he seeks to seal his legacy.

So far, Makueni is the only county to roll out a medical scheme which has been running for two years. Kisumu County is also working on a legislative framework for the same.

Annual payments

Under the cover, which is to be officially launched next week, residents of Kitui County will register biometrically and receive a card bearing their photo and registration number.

The card will be used to access services from the 270 public health facilities run by the county government.

County Health Chief officer Dr Richard Muthoka says once a person is registered, they will be required to pay Sh1,000 as premiums. A Sh100 charge for the card is paid once by the member.

“Members will pay Sh500 for card replacement in case it is lost,” says Muthoka.

Children below 18 years of age will be placed under the care of their parents or guardians as the drive seeks to capture each household.

At the Kitui County Referral Hospital, systems are already in place for the rollout. Key among the equipment at the facility are an X-ray machine that serves an average of 90 people each day.

Also at the county’s main hospital are an ultrasound machine, orthopathomograph for dental x-ray and a mammogram. The county’s first CT scan machine will be launched once the building housing it is complete.

“We’re seeking to have Kitui County Referral Hospital upgraded to a level five. There are three more level four facilities in Mwingi, Ikutha and Sombe,” says Ngilu.

Kitui has 270 public health facilities serving 290,000 households which are being targeted for the health coverage.

While the CT scan will cost Sh2,000 rather than the usual Sh7,000, Ngilu says should the number of people needing its service decrease, all charges will be scrapped. “This cost will just cover the consumables,” she says of the cover.

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Universal Health CareUHCGovernor Charity Ngilu