After suffering for long, residents of Meibeki in Uasin Gishu recently staged protests over shortage of drugs and lack of ambulances in public health facilities in the county.
Armed with twigs, the residents said they are forced to use donkeys to ferry patients to health centres in the neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet County because there is no ambulance.
They braved the rains to express their dissatisfaction and barred county health officials from accessing the local health centre to asses the situation. The demonstrators drove donkeys christened ‘Meibeki ambulance’ which locals use to transport patients to hospital.
They also complained that, many times, they are forced to seek medical services in the neighbouring county because the local health centres do not have drugs.
“We are bitter with the county leadership as they have let us down. It seems corruption is high. Despite the Government allocating huge resources to health, we have not benefited,” said Thomas Limo.
A resident, Jackson Kwambai, accused area administration of failing to fulfil their promises on the provision of drugs meant to serve over 12,000 locals in the region.
“It is a pity that as Uasin Gishu residents we have to seek services in Elgeyo Marakwet, which receives a less budgetary allocation from the national government. What happens to our funds?” he posed.
He said other health facilities in the area including Barsombe, Ziwa and Moiben also do not have drugs.
“Our plea to the county to provide an ambulance fell on deaf ears, and had it not been for a well-wisher who usually provides his donkeys to transport patients, we would have lost many lives to treatable ailments,” said Kwambai.
County Health Executive Margaret Chepkwony acknowledged that there was a shortage of drugs as a result of long procurement processes.
She blamed the delay on distribution of drugs by Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa), noting that the current procurement procedures have contributed to the delay. She, however, downplayed claims of supremacy battles between the officials.
“We currently use digitised system to apply for drugs online and because most counties rely on one supplier, it then becomes a challenge, but we are doing everything possible to counter it,” she said.
She said she has directed health officials in the region to conduct a survey on facilities that have run out of drugs so that they will be supplied.
“Last financial year, we bought drugs worth Sh127 million and in order to ensure that we fully equip our stores, we are working on establishing a multi-million storage facility in Eldoret,” she said.
High Child mortality
Agnes Tewele, a mother of four, said child mortality rate is high in the area forcing mothers to resort to mid wives and herbalists.
“Mothers are suffering and we cannot access maternity yet the Government is currently against use of mid-wives in the rural areas. It is worrying that babies born prematurely are placed in the traditional oven to incubate,” she claimed.
The root cause according to the county legislators is supremacy battles among the executive. Recently, the county allocated huge amounts towards health in the budget but is now alleged that the differences among officials has grounded services.
The move has seen patients troop to neighbouring counties in search of proper medical care despite the presence of the second national referral hospital in the region.
Members of the county sssembly led by Leader of Majority Josphat Lowoi raised concerns over lack of drugs that has forced locals to seek treatment in as far as Trans Nzoia and Kakamega.
The county legislators passed a motion that seeks to establish an ad hoc committee made of 11 people that will commence investigations on why there is shortage of drugs in most health centres.
“We cannot say that we have never allocated funds towards the health sector, the only challenge is that there is continued mismanagement of the health sector while our people continue to suffer,” he said.
Lowoi said there is a broken link between suppliers and the county, adding that most facilities received the first batch of medical supplies.
“We expect the team appointed to identify the root cause of the problem and present a report after 14 days so that we can bring an end to the drugs and mismanagement of the health sector,” he explained.
Cheptiret-Kipchamo MCA Josephine Tireito said she has been a victim of the problem facing the sector after taking her child to a nearby health facility only to be referred to another for lack of drugs.
“It is understood that when drugs are supplied, they only last for a month then locals begin to suffer. As leaders, we cannot watch as patients suffer,” she said.
Janet Nekesa from Kimumu area wondered why there has been no official communication from the executive as most facilities lack drugs, adding that the move has seen them opt for over-the-counter treatment.
She said the county has made huge strides in infrastructure, but failed to equip them with drugs.
Kenya National Union of Nurses Uasin Gishu chairperson John Bii acknowledged the challenge, adding that most machines installed in health facilities are not functioning.
He noted that most equipment and non-pharmaceuticals are obsolete and require replacement.
“We have been raising such complaints since the advent of devolution but nothing has been done. Most procedures in health facilities are improvised, putting the lives of patients at risk,” said Bii. Kemsa is a state corporation under the Ministry of Health established under the Kemsa Act, 2013 whose mandate is to procure, warehouse and distribute drugs and medical supplies for prescribed public health programmes, the national strategic stock reserve, prescribed essential health packages and national referral hospitals.