The government’s commitment to enabling all Kenyans to gain access to quality healthcare has never been in doubt. Indeed, since Independence 60 years ago, substantive resources have been channelled into building public hospitals and health centres and providing them with trained personnel, facilities, drugs and equipment.
With the coming of the counties in 2013, and in a bid to take medical services closer to the people across the country, the provision of healthcare was devolved. It has not been easy, but progress has been made. Public hospitals still grapple with the perennial challenges of drug stock-outs and staff shortages but the goal is still being relentlessly pursued.
One of the key programmes that the government has pursued under the Big Four Agenda is healthcare. The others are food security, housing and manufacturing. The universal health coverage (UHC) is the programme that should make the healthcare dream a reality. One of its pillars is free maternity care, which has increased the capacity to enable more expectant mothers to deliver their babies in hospitals and health centres under qualified personnel.
UHC is anchored on the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). The fund has had its weaknesses, including mismanagement and corruption, which are being addressed. But it has the capacity and potential to provide the means through which most Kenyans can access quality medicare.
It is hardly surprising, as the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union has stated, that 80 per cent of the NHIF’s cash may be going to the private sector. Though a key player in the provision of healthcare, it caters for a minority that can afford the high fees and charges. The majority of our people depend on public hospitals and health centres.
We fully agree with KMPDU that the public health facilities get more cash so as to provide more services, or else patients in public hospitals will still have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for essential services that are not available there.