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Most counties yet to stabilise health services, a decade later

 Reuben Rotich a volunteer community health worker attending to Malaria patients under a makeshift dispensary at Chesawach village in Tiaty, Baringo County. [Joseph Kpsang, Standard]

It has been a mix of hits and misses for the healthcare system as counties mark a decade since the onset of devolution.

While some units made some strides to take services close to the people, others are still grappling with the ailing sector.

Understaffing, inadequate funding, unavailability of essential drugs and equipment, and runaway corruption have been cited as the major challenges in the sector.

In Baringo, for instance, the main hospital in Kabarnet town is on the verge of collapsing as patients are sent to neighbouring counties to seek basic medical services.

For the past three years, patients in need of CT scan have been travelling to the Iten County Referral Hospital in Elgeyo Marakwet County at their expense and wait for results to be emailed to the facility.

Those critically ill are referred to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.

Recently, a pharmacist was arrested after he was allegedly found stealing drugs from the Kabarnet facility.

Governor Benjamin Cheboi promised to resuscitate the sector when he took office last year.

"A year later, nothing has been done. We are still travelling long in search of healthcare services. It seems like there is something wrong we are doing, and other counties seem to be doing well," says a resident.

Lagat is of the opinion that the function be reverted back to the national government, claiming that the county was unable to manage it.

The CEC for Health, Solomon Sirma, confirmed that the hospital has been referring CT scan patients to Iten Hospital, adding that their machine will be repaired soon.

He stated that his department is working on improving service delivery.

Some of the health officials are under investigation due to illegal procurement of MRI machines.

A 2021/2022 audit report by the Auditor General released in May revealed that 20 health facilities built at the cost of Sh81,863,922 are unutilised due to a lack of utilities, health equipment and personnel.

In Kakamega, the construction of a multibillion-shilling level six hospital stalled after the contractor abandoned the site in February, 2020, over unpaid dues.

The national government has promised to spend Sh1.2 billion on the project, whose phase one has consumed at least Sh2 billion and is almost complete.

In Busia, Governor Paul Otuoma has decried the pathetic state of the county referral hospital, equating it to a level five facility.

According to Otuoma, the hospital lacks medical equipment and essential medicines. He has committed to working with the national government and other partners in upgrading the facility.

Narok County, on the other hand, has made significant strides in addressing challenges in the health sector.

Ageing and inadequate facilities have long been a hindrance to delivering efficient medical services. However, the county has constructed and upgraded healthcare centres, clinics and hospitals.

The county is constructing maternity wings and new dispensaries in the 30 wards.

The county also increased medical supplies quarterly allocation from Sh40 million to Sh90.

The Health CEC Anthony Namunkuk said the primary healthcare has been strengthened, having recognised its importance in preventing and managing diseases.

"By ensuring these facilities have the necessary resources, Narok County is better prepared to handle emergencies, provide accurate diagnoses, and offer improved treatment options. This transformation ensures that residents, even in remote areas, now have access to quality healthcare services closer to their homes," said the CEC.

The county also focused on prenatal care, safe delivery practices and postnatal support to improve health for mothers and their unborn babies, and reduce the risk of childbirth-related complications.

Additionally, the county launched the Maternal and Child Survival Programme in Erupata, Naroosura Ward.

Sponsored by Compassion International in partnership with ACK St Paul's Erupata Church, the project promotes quality reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health interventions at the household, community, and health facility levels.

In Trans Nzoia, Governor George Natembeya has embarked on completing a host of projects.

The Sh1.6 billion upgrade of the Trans Nzoia County Hospital into a referral and teaching facility is one of his priorities.

The construction of the Sh200 million Tom Mboya Mother and Baby Hospital in the Tuwan estate is yet another milestone for the new administration.

Natembeya says the facility, which has been serving as a health centre, will be a big boost to the health of women, and will decongest the Kitale County Referral Hospital. The project will take nine months to complete.

"We've been dealing with a lot of congestion at the county referral hospital, and the new facility will help a lot. It will be separate from the main hospital and would have its own board of directors," says the Governor.

In the 2021/2022 financial year, Trans Nzoia spent Sh1.9 billion on recurrent expenditure in the health sector, while Sh524 million was spent on development projects in the sector.

In Uasin Gishu, the Governor Jonathan Bii administration has prioritised allocation to the health sector, with Sh2.5 billion set to go into supporting the provision of services this financial year.

Last year, according to the Controller of Budget, the county spent Sh1.9 billion on recurrent activities, while Sh614 million went to development.

Governor Bii plans to complete stalled health facilities while improving the supply of critical medicine.

Some of the stalled projects are the Ziwa Sub-County Hospital and Burnt Forest Hospital.

Bii has also entered into an agreement with an Israeli firm to use drone technology to supply drugs to remote parts of the county.

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