Turn universal health coverage dream to reality

President William Ruto during the signing of Universal Health Care Bills, State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

The Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme rollout by President William Ruto has attracted a mixture of jubilation and scepticism. The latter arises from the failure of UHC to take off after the pilot phase was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nyeri, Isiolo, Kisumu and Machakos counties in 2018.

Financial constraints and other factors, including a lack of political goodwill, led to the collapse of the pilot phase. Thus, it came as a relief to those who believe in UHC when President William Ruto assented to four bills that eventually actualised UHC, which Dr Ruto officially launched during this year's Mashujaa Day celebrations at Kericho Stadium.

The cost of healthcare has driven many families to penury and despair, which is why affordable and accessible healthcare is welcome.

Healthcare in Kenya is dogged by a myriad of problems that should be taken care of for UHC to succeed. The government must first address rampant corruption that causes shortages of medicines and medical stores in public hospitals. Further, it is necessary for the government to improve the doctor-patient ratio to 1:1000 in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.

Improved remuneration for medical staff who endure long hours of work with the singular goal of saving lives will go a long way in making UHC work. The commissioning of community health promoters is a move in the right direction and signals serious intent to finally address shortcomings in the health sector.

It is the hope of Kenyans that UHC will escape the snares that have stood in the way of NHIF. While NHIF was set up to facilitate access to quality healthcare with ease, it was hijacked by unscrupulous individuals who turned it into a cash cow, thereby defeating the very purpose for which it was set up.

Political goodwill and prudent management of finances are key to the success of UHC. It should be made to work to reduce the disease burden.