President William Ruto to assent to four health bills

Head of Public Service Felix Koskei

Head of Public Service Felix Koskei (left) and Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria (centre) and Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo arriving at Kapkatet Stadium in Kericho County on October 18, 2023 for the ongoing Universal Health Coverage conference.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai/ Nation Media Group

President William Ruto will this afternoon assent to four health bills, paving the way for his administration to roll out Universal Health Care (UHC) programmes and change the way the sector is managed.

This comes after the Head of Public Service, Felix Koskei, said that corruption was deeply entrenched in the health sector and that the government was trying to turn the tide under the Afya Nyumbani programme, a flagship programme of the Kenya Kwanza administration.

At the same time, the Council of Governors, the Ministry of Health and the health sector unions have entered into a series of agreements that are expected to change the face of the sector, especially on human resource issues.

The bills to be signed into law by the President are the Social Health Insurance Bill, the Primary Health Care Bill, the Digital Health Bill and the Facility Improvement Financing Bill.

It will pave the way for the abolition of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the establishment of the National Social Health Insurance Fund (NSHIF), as the government seeks to provide universal health cover to all in society.

"President Ruto will sign the four bills into law on Thursday (October 19) after they were passed by the National Assembly and Senate. The government is keen on implementing Universal Health Care (UHC) with a focus on primary health care to reduce hospital admissions and mortality," said Koskei.

Dr Ruto, who has been on a week-long tour of China, is also expected in Kericho for a series of functions before presiding over the Mashujaa Day celebrations in the county on October 20.

James Keter

Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority Director General James Keter (second left) engages the public during the UHC Expo at Kapkatet Stadium in Kericho County on October 18, 2023. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai / Nation Media Group

Mr Koskei was speaking at Kapkatet Stadium in Kericho County on October 18 during the ongoing UHC conference ahead of Mashujaa Day celebrations to be held at Kericho Green Stadium on Friday. He was accompanied by Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakumicha and her Public Service counterpart Moses Kuria

"The health sector needs to be citizen-centred, it must change its mode of operation," Mr Koskei said.

"We (government) will address the challenges facing the health sector and provide affordable and accessible health services. We will increase funding for the sector and recruit more professionals for the various cadres," he added.

Mr Koskei, however, condemned corruption, which he said has permeated all aspects of the health sector.

"Corruption is deeply entrenched in the sector, right from admissions to colleges and theft of drugs," Mr Koskei said.

 "We must seize the moment, reflect on what may have gone wrong with the health systems, change course and do the right thing," he added.

 He said the government was aware that some of the perks enjoyed by medics date back to the 1970s and needed to be reviewed as part of efforts to build a robust health system.

Mr Koskei presided over the signing of a commitment called the Kapkatet Declaration by the National Dialogue on Human Resources for Health, which brings together the Council of Governors, the Ministry of Health and the Kenya Health Human Resource Advisory Council (KHHRAC) to operationalise specific resolutions aimed at improving service delivery in the health sector in line with the Bills to be signed into law by the President.

The National Treasury and other relevant institutions, including Parliament, will be mandated, as provided for in the document, to explore methods of increasing the existing funding bracket to allow for the employment of more health workers by first confirming those who are serving on contractual terms.

It calls for the KHHRAC to be established by the government as an independent and fully-functioning statutory body, with responsibility for convening a joint implementation committee on Human Resource for Health (HRH).

Within the next nine months, a centralised mechanism for Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) between health workers' unions and the employer will be established, while promotions and redeployment of those due on the basis of certain qualifications will be implemented.

Within a year, the body will develop, review and harmonise service and career progression guidelines for better relevance and consistent implementation by national and county governments.

The KHHRAC will "support the development, review and alignment of schemes of service and career progression guidelines for better relevance and uniform implementation at national and county levels...facilitate the absorption and mainstreaming of national government contract staff (including COVID 19/UHC staff) and engage the Council of Governors to develop a clear plan for the absorption of other contract staff".

Over the next year, health services are expected to continue uninterrupted, with unions committed to industrial harmony and peaceful relations based on the commitments contained in the declaration.

Over the next three months, health workers will be provided with comprehensive health insurance and psychosocial support.

The parties agreed to proactively support the mainstreaming of existing primary health care cadres into the Primary Care Network (PCN) model to reduce duplication and promote inclusivity.

It will establish a formula for sharing responsibility for postgraduate training between national and county governments, a mechanism for post-training redeployment, and develop a framework for sharing a health specialist between the two levels of government to improve service delivery.

Streamlining and standardising internship training for all cadres of professionals in the sector to improve relevance and quality, and developing a framework for a fixed period of post-internship employment for health workers to build their experience to compete in local and international job markets.

Mr Kuria said doctors must sign performance contracts like all other public servants to measure service delivery to the people in the spirit of accountability.

 Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority Director General James Keter said the authority would work with stakeholders to ensure safe use of nuclear technology and radiation sources in hospitals.

 "Human and environmental safety is our (KNRA) priority and we will work with stakeholders in the health sector to ensure a safe working and living environment for all," Mr Keter said.

 Hospitals in the country have recently been upgrading their technology with a number of facilities seeking to establish cancer centres, which need to be regulated due to radiation levels.