Governors have asked contractors and suppliers of the controversial Sh53 billion Managed Equipment Services (MES) programme to reduce the price of the consumables and equipment downtime for servicing.
Council of Governors Health Committee chairperson Muthomi Njuki said it was necessary that the contracts be signed, but with a review of the programme to address “equity concerns”.
“We have suppliers leasing equipment for free and making their money on consumables, however, with the MES project, the leasing is already pricey and they are making a kill from consumables,” Mr Njuki, the Tharaka-Nithi governor, said.
He said that it is only the suppliers that repair them and since there is no competitive bidding, the suppliers charge whatever they want. “This is the bit that is not very friendly to the counties.”
“The consumables in the government hospitals are pricier compared to private hospitals, with the excuse that counties take longer to pay. They are milking everything they can get around. We want the prices reduced,” Mr Njuki said.
The county chief indicated that the turnaround time for servicing the machines has been a major issue.
“If it counties owned equipment and it didn’t work for even three days, it is okay. But for leased equipment, and it is not working for months, then they are stealing from the government,” Mr Njuki said
The governors are also demanding that counties that had equipment that was never put to use be compensated before the contracts are renewed.
“While the equipment was not working, the national government paid for them at the same price as machines that were operational. So the counties should be compensated,” Mr Njuki said. “We are not asking them to refund the monies, we are asking for compensation in kind.”
On whether MES is necessary for the counties and Kenyans, Mr Njuki said the machines had saved many lives.
“None of the counties can afford to buy the equipment by themselves, they are expensive and the only ask we have as we sign the agreement is the reduction in the pricing of commodities and the service time,” he said.
Last week, the Ministry of Health and the council established a team to visit facilities and determine whether the equipment was working or not before contracts are signed with specific counties.
“If the machines are old and not working, the contractor has to replenish and service them to work at an optimum level,” he said.
According to a report by the Association of Medical Engineering of Kenya (AMEK) released last month, about 13 public hospitals that benefited from MES were unable to utilise their equipment.
AMEK said the equipment remains idle due to a lack of personnel, lack of water, lack of three-phase power for X-ray machines and incomplete hospital buildings.
The initial contract expired last year, and the government has chosen to extend it to Sh100 million per county per year, which translates to Sh14.1 billion in three years.
For the seven-year contract that ended on February 5, 2022, the counties had paid $470 million (Sh53 billion).