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Inside Wamatangi's ambitious free healthcare plan for Kiambu

 Kiambu Governor Kimani Wamatangi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kiambu County government is implementing a multi-million shillings programme to ensure residents access free quality healthcare services in public hospitals under Universal Health Care (UHC).

Under the programme dubbed Kiambu Afya, popularly known as "Wamatangi Care", the county pays premiums for registered residents.

Wamatangi Care has now been cascaded to Level Three and Level Two hospitals after they were onboarded by the National Health Insurance Fund

The Department of Health Service County Chief is working towards integrating Level Two and Three facilities into the NHIF system to ensure that registered residents access free medicare.

By connecting healthcare facilities to the NHIF system, Mr Wamatangi said his administration aims to eliminate financial barriers that may prevent residents from getting medical attention.

This, the governor said, will ensure that patients who visit the county's 114 health facilities access outpatient and inpatient services for free as long as they are registered with NHIF, which President William Ruto changed to Social Health Insurance Fund as part of health reforms.

The county has already enrolled approximately 300,000 people in the enhanced health scheme which also covers chronic diseases and funeral expenses in case of death of a beneficiary.

A second mass registration drive expected to start in two months targets 500,000 people.

Wamatangi said registration was ongoing in hospitals.

"Residents who were not previously enrolled in the scheme but could not afford the cost of healthcare services will be registered at the facilities promptly to the Kiambu Afya scheme at the hospital they visit so that they can access the services for free," he said.

"All they need is an identification card. Those who are financially able will also be registered immediately. This programme aimed to provide comprehensive health coverage for all residents, ensuring that no one had to sacrifice their livelihood or sell their assets to afford medical care," he added.

Jane Rose Mukere from Riabai Ward, a cancer survivor, and one of the beneficiaries of Kiambu Afya, said in September last year, she underwent surgery at Kenyatta National Hospital and the cover catered for the Sh150,000 bill.

"Wamatangi Care’ continues to support me through radiotherapy and chemotherapy at Kenyatta University Referral Hospital and Kiambu Level 5 Hospital," she said, adding that she was enrolled during the mass registration drive last year.

County Executive Committee Member for Health Services Elias Maina said to ensure the programme is successful, more hospitals are being built and equipped, ensuring adequate human resource and supply of drugs.

Currently, the county is building six Level Four hospitals, and 13 Level Three hospitals at a cost of Sh1.5 billion, while modern equipment worth Sh500 million has been ordered and will be distributed in the existing facilities.

The Level Four hospitals include Thogoto in Kikuyu, Bibirioni in Limuru, Rukuma in Lari, Wangige and Githunguri which had stalled for years as well as Karuri and Juja Level Four hospitals which are being constructed at a cost of Sh250 million each.

The Level Three hospitals are Ndumberi, Kiamumbi, Mwihoko, Kahawa Sukari, Ndenderu, Kiawaroga, Kawaida, Gitothua, Athena, Kahawa Wendani, Gitaru, Uthiru and Ndarasha which have been allocated Sh50 million each.

The Level Three hospitals will comprise outpatient, inpatient, 16-bed capacity maternity, 10-bed general ward, mini theatre, and mini-laboratory.

"The intention is to ensure that we have Level Three hospitals in all our 60 wards. The existing dispensaries are being upgraded to Level Three hospitals by expanding the infrastructure and equipping. This will ensure people will not be required to travel far to access medical services," Dr Maina said 

Further, the Health CEC revealed that the county was finalizing the installation of a Health Management Information System (HMIS) in all facilities to help track patient records, manage medical supplies, and boost efficiency.

The county has completed construction of a drugs store in Ruiru which will serve as a central medical facility where all supply orders for pharmaceuticals and non-pharmaceuticals will be stored before being dispersed to the 114 hospitals.

Dr Esther Kamau, the County Head of the Health Technologies and Products Unit, said the facility would enable the county to supply pharmaceuticals to all facilities on time to end delays caused by procurement bottlenecks.

Kamau explained that the county would be placing orders in advance and holding them in the facility, and once a hospital's drugs stocks drop they will be restocked immediately.

Wamatangi has also started creating a multi-billion shillings hospital fund to finance healthcare operations.

The Facility Improvement Fund, funded by grants from the County Revenue Fund and cash and insurance schemes from services provided in health facilities, has so far hit Sh700 million.

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