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All eyes on Mailu as he takes over crucial health ministry

Health & Science
 Health CS Cleopa Mailu

As the Christmas and New Year celebrations come to a close, new Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu takes over a docket dogged by perennial strikes, machine breakdowns and medical personnel accused of laxity.

Dr Mailu, a former CEO of the Nairobi Hospital, and his Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri, who previously served as Director of Medical Services, are expected to streamline the health docket that has been troublesome for the government since the advent of devolution.

Strikes by nurses, which gripped various counties throughout last year, presents Dr Mailu with a headache on finding a lasting solution in the New Wear, if only to save lives.

Persistent wrangles

It is estimated that more than 400,000 people seek treatment in public hospitals daily, and one can only hope that county and national governments will find a way of working together to improve access to healthcare for the masses.

Last year, Council of Governors Chairman Peter Munya accused the national government of being behind the persistent wrangles between county governments and health workers, allegedly to portray them (county governments) in bad light.

The governors maintained that the National Treasury was withholding money meant for the counties even though health functions had been devolved.

Nurses, however, accused the governors of frustrating them by denying them promotions, and even called for the health function to be returned to the national government. The new CS will have to carefully navigate through the issue to save the sector from yet another crisis in the New Year, given that some health workers are already sharpening their scalpels for the next round of battle if their demands for better pay and work conditions are not met.

Kenya National Union of Nurses Secretary General Seth Panyako has made no secret of the fact that the policy framework on Collective Bargaining Agreements being spearheaded by the Public Service Commission (PSC) should be completed and implemented soonest, preferably by the end of January.

This, it is believed, will go a long way in ensuring civil servants, including those in the health sector, have their terms of service reviewed and work conditions improved.

During his vetting by a parliamentary committee,  Dr Muraguri promised that the ministry would revamp the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), an issue he said is close to his heart.

“NHIF currently covers 5.8 million principal members. We would wish to see this number increased by between 20 and 30 per cent in the new year,” he said.

Muraguri was optimistic that the issues that have driven public health workers to strike, which he says are legitimate, will be resolved by all parties concerned.

Improved acess to healthcare facilities among the urban poor living in slums, where children are said to be twice at risk of dying as compared to other poor places in the country, is of utmost priority at Afya House.


Many Kenyans, especially cancer patients, hope the national and county governments will acquire cancer treatment machines to save Kenyans living in rural areas the pain and costs of travelling to Nairobi to seek treatment.

Last year, the two radiotherapy machines at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) — the two only machines in Kenya — broke down, putting the lives of thousands of cancer patients at risk.

More gains are expected from the Beyond Zero Campaign championed by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, as the country is expected to register an improvement in maternal child care.

Health Bill

All eyes will also be on how the Sh38 billion project launched by President Uhuru in February last year to improve health facilities in the counties will help thousands access modern theatre equipment, ICU facilities, digital X-Ray machines, ultrasound and imaging machines, as well as kidney dialysis equipment, in selected hospitals across the country.

Also on the cards in 2016, according to Muraguri, is a massive roll out of treatment for persons with HIV and AIDS in Homa Bay, Kisumu, Siaya and Migori counties which account for a large number of the population living with the disease.

Passage of the Health Bill, which the Council of Governors had faulted as containing provisions that undermine devolution, should be among items coming up for debate in Parliament as it was left pending in 2015.

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