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Public hospitals hit by drug shortage

By Mactilda Mbenywe | October 5th 2020

Public hospitals in Kisumu County are grappling with a shortage of essential drugs that risks grounding health services.

A spot check by The Standard revealed that a number of sub-county hospitals, health centres and dispensaries have been without drugs for the past three months. The hardest-hit include Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital, health centres and dispensaries.

David Okeyo, Medical Superintendent at Kombewa Hospital which serves about 29,000 people, confirmed the facility received the last batch of drugs in April, a delivery that should have been made in December last year.

“Patients are buying drugs and for those who cannot afford, they keep visiting the hospital yet there is nothing much we can do for them,” said Okeyo.

Medical Superintendent at Ahero Hospital Bernard Owino said there has been a drug supply shortage, adding that his facility does not have hypertension medicines.

“The essential drugs are inadequate. As a facility we are trying to buy using our cash flow money, while some drugs we borrow from smaller facilities,” said Owino.

For the last two months, medics at the hospital have been diagnosing patients and sending them to private pharmacies to buy drugs over the counter.

The medical superintendent attributed the erratic supply and out-of-stock drugs to low financing and delays by the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa).

Kisumu County Director of Health Fredrick Oluoch blamed Kemsa for the delay in supplies. “We rely on the agency to supply medicine yet commodities that are essential and on high demand are never available,” said Oluoch.

He added, “When we make orders we outline everything we need and on receiving supplies, most commodities ordered are missing.”

County Assembly Budget and Appropriation Committee Chair Steve Owiti said lack of funds was not a major challenge in supply of essential medicines. He, however, said health budget needs more allocation of funds to meet the demand. “If we had an alternative supply we would use the funds we have to purchase what we need most,” said Owiti.

The county has a budget of Sh11.5 billion with Sh3.5 billion budgeted for health. However, Owiti said for better services the health budget should be increased to Sh7 billion.

But Kenneth Bukachi of Kemsa said counties should work on their ordering procedures and make necessary adjustments to ensure they stock up on drugs. “They should have a way of stocking up the drugs and if we do not have them in our stores they have a right to source for these elsewhere as policy states,” said Bukachi.

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