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Strengthen public health facilities to ease pain of poor, suffering Kenyans

By The Standard | April 11th 2021
Patients at a hospital in Kisumu. [Courtesy]

Strengthen public health facilities to ease pain of poor, suffering Kenyans

The cost of healthcare is among the most prohibitive in Kenya today. Our public healthcare system is groaning under the weight of neglect and mismanagement, worsened by Covid-19 that has thrown an already overwhelmed system into a spin.

The expected game-changers in the partial devolving of the health function in 2014 and the Sh38 billion Managed Equipment Services (MES) have not produced the desired results; neither does the Universal Health Care (UHC) goals seem attainable, especially now that all attention is focused on Covid-19.

The near-complete loss of citizens’ trust in public hospitals has led to a mushrooming of private clinics and hospitals that, comparatively, offer better medical services.

The truth is, most private hospitals have taken the trouble to purchase state–of–the–art machinery and hire specialists with a view to offer world-class services to their patients.

That, however, is where the good news ends. Services at private hospitals cost an arm and a leg, and are hence unaffordable for patients on the lower societal rung.

In the end, many sick Kenyans have resigned themselves to fate.

In the rare cases in which some of the low-income earning Kenyans have been taken to private medical facilities for specialised treatment, many end up running such huge bills, they get detained for not being able to clear them.

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The bills often run into millions of shillings for just a few days of care. As a result, the poor completely unable to bear the cost of treatment in private hospitals.

This dire situation can be turned around if the government does the right thing by investing in the public healthcare system to ensure hospitals are not just fully stocked with requisite medications, but that they are well-staffed and use the latest state-of-the-art diagnostic machines.

There is need to harness the full potential of the National Health Insurance Fund by running it professionally and having it deliver the promise of UHC. Instances in which patients’ contributions are stolen through corruption should end with prudent management of the funds.

There is no reason Kenyans who contribute to this scheme should be forced to seek treatment in costly hospitals locally or abroad, yet we are all aware of the noble intent behind NHIF and UHC.

Renewing public confidence in our public healthcare system will go a long way in lowering the runaway cost of healthcare


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