A biting drug shortage in various hospitals in the North Rift has left residents exposed, with most of them having to incur the extra cost of buying them at private facilities.
The shortage has been blamed on the failure by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) to supply drugs to the counties on time.
Eric Wangila, a resident of Uasin Gishu County, said the only drugs one can be sure of getting in any public hospital in the region are painkillers.
He said almost every time he takes his four-year-old daughter to the hospital he is forced to buy the prescriptions from a private pharmacy.
“Children below five years are usually treated for free in any public hospital, but in our county that is not the case. I’m forced to buy the drugs prescribed for her from a private pharmacy because they are out of stock,” said Wangila.
“As a parent this really breaks your heart. One time, my daughter had diarrhoea and was vomiting. After a checkup, I was told to go and buy drugs worth Sh5,000 from a pharmacy. She was to start taking the drugs immediately, but I didn’t have cash.”
Counties have, however, blamed this situation on the Kemsa Act of 2018, which instructs them to only procure drugs from Kemsa. They called for the amendment of the Act.
“This is life-threatening to patients suffering from chronic diseases as they don’t get adequate medication. The consignment, most of the time, does not include a range of drugs and consumables like lab reagents,” said Kiprono Chepkok, the Elgeyo-Marakwet County Health minister.
The county chiefs Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) and his Nandi counterpart Stephen Sang said hospitals in their regions had not been getting all their orders from Kemsa.
Mr Mandago said this had forced the county to resort to sourcing drugs from other suppliers as it seeks to gap. “Earlier on, we used to order after four months, but even with that Kemsa couldn’t deliver all our orders. So, nowadays, ordering of drugs is demand driven,” said Mandago.
Sang said the agency had no capacity to cope with the high demand of drugs. “UHC will remain a pipe dream if the capacity of Kemsa is not enhanced. It will be a major problem when this programme rolls out and we cannot get enough drugs for our facilities,” said Governor Sang.