The Linda Mama free health scheme that supports pregnant women and infants in accessing health services could crumble due to lack of funds.
Public health facilities across the country are facing financial challenges due to failure by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), which manages the scheme, to remit cash for the scheme since November 2020.
As a result, women seeking delivery services have been forced to buy some basic medical equipment as hospitals can no longer afford to cater for their medical needs.
This comes at a time when the hospitals have been pushed to the wall due to high demand of medical equipment by Covid-19 patients.
Revenue collected by the hospitals are diverted to the maternity wings and Covid-19 units, a move that has affected other services.
Mary Nasieke, a mother of three, said she was shocked when medics at a facility in Narok asked her to acquire some medical equipment that they may attend to her, a request that she says was strange since she had delivered her two other children at the Ntulele health centre in Narok free of charge.
“We had to buy some cotton wool and other medical equipment before I was admitted for delivery something that we had not done before,” she said.
A survey in various hospitals in Nakuru, Nyandarua and Narok counties established that the financial crisis had adversely affected their operations.
In Nakuru, public health facilities are owed over Sh113 million with reports from NHIF indicating that over Sh2 billion was yet to be reimbursed to public hospitals under the scheme.
Nakuru Health Executive Kariuki Gichuki admitted that failure to release the funds had a negative impact on the popular scheme. “Currently all health facilities in Nakuru are owed over Sh113 million as of end of March and this has some impact on the maternity services,” said Dr Gichuki.
Gichuki noted that they are in talks with NHIF on how the funds can be released, adding that in the past they have received the money in batches.
Nyandarua Health Executive John Mungai admitted that they were owed some cash under the scheme but the county government had moved in and made sure that all mothers and babies were attended to.
“We have in the past had delays from NHIF in releasing the funds but health is very sensitive and we are doing everything possible in our maternity departments,” said Dr Mungai.
A health officer in Narok confirmed that NHIF had not reimbursed funds to them since last year. “This scheme has assisted mainly poor women from informal settlements but now we are asking them to come with basic items like cotton wool.”
Contacted on the phone, a senior manager from NHIF and who declined to be named pointed an accusing finger at Treasury. “It’s true we owe public hospitals millions under the Linda Mama scheme and the main problem lies in failure by Treasury to release the funds.”