The County Government of Kisumu on Wednesday made a passionate appeal to the Senate Health Committee to fast-track the transfer of the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital to the national government.
The move is largely being viewed as an opportunity to attract more funding and to deal with various challenges the hospital has been facing, among them growing demand of patients from neighbouring counties.
The main aim of the transformation is autonomy, which will see the hospital divorced from the county health department.
As an autonomous outfit, it will run its functions through a board.
Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathew Owili and the chairman of the Health Committee at the Kisumu County Assembly, Mr Vincent Jagongo, said the move to transform Jaramogi hospital into a parastatal like the Kenyatta National Hospital, will free the county government so that it can concentrate on the management of smaller hospitals in the county.
The two pushed for the move when the Senate Health Committee, led by Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago, met the Kisumu County Assembly Health Committee and later, the Executive, led by Dr Owili.
The other members who were present were Joseph Ngugi (Murang'a), Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira) and nominated senators Mariam Omar, Esther Okenyuri and Hamida Kibwana.
Mr Jagongo said the hospital has gobbled up almost 50 per cent of the county’s health personnel, making it difficult for smaller facilities to operate optimally.
“We have a shortage of nurses already and the county government is struggling to meet its needs and deliver services at the same time. When JOOTRH (Jaramogi Oginga Odinga hospital) is upgraded into a level six facility, the personnel there will be taken care of by the national government and this gives us an opportunity to employ more staff and deploy them to other facilities,” said Mr Jagongo.
Some years back, the facility was attracting conditional grants from the Treasury, which even then could not meet its demands. Dr Owili, however, stated that this has been made worse because the facility no longer receives the grants anymore for two years now.
“The facility is also a teaching and referral hospital, if it cannot effectively finance its functions, it can’t discharge its duties. When it is a parastatal it will be able to attract more partners and government funding,” said Dr Owili.
Ms Kibwana, however, questioned whether the facility meets the standards of a level six facility.
Dr George Rae, the CEO stated that the hospital, commissioned in 1969 was the second biggest in the country after KNH until it was overtaken by Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH).
It is also a medical training ground for learning institutions such as Uzima, Maseno and Great Lakes University as well as the Kenya Medical Training College in Kisumu and its environs.
Dr Rae said transforming the hospital to level six would put it at the level of its peers such as the KNH and MTRH.
Promoting the facility to level six will go a long way in cushioning the county from the many patients being referred to it from the neighbouring counties.
He argued that the hospital does not only handle cases from Kisumu, but from other counties such as Siaya, Vihiga, Bomet and Kericho.
“There are usually many patients being referred here and this is taking a toll on the facility since it is overloaded and highly underfunded. If it was a parastatal with proper funding, this would help it offer more and efficient services to all that visit it,” said Dr Rae.
Upgrading the hospital would attract funding of up to Sh10 billion every year, he said, and enhance resources to the facility. He said MTRH and KNH were receiving annual funding of at least Sh12 billion and Sh15 billion respectively.
According to the hospital CEO, the county government is awaiting the declaration of the upgrade, which is before the Senate, having been qualitatively and quantitatively assessed by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council.
Mr Mandago said senators will pursue the matter because it will help not only Kisumu but other regions too.
“This issue affects major hospitals that were in former provincial headquarters and I do not understand why it has not been upgraded. We will follow up on the matter and ensure the transfer is done and the hospital is supported efficiently,” said Mr Mandago.
The move to transform the hospital into a parastatal started in 2020 with the governor and the hospital management visiting many institutions such as Harvard Medical Centre to understand how this would work.
The Bill proposing the upgrade had been taken before the county assembly for debate and approval, and forwarded to the Senate.
According to a report of the assembly in 2020, it was revealed that the facility has an annex, the Victoria Hospital, which is expected to support it, but that was not the case, as it depends on the referral hospital.