Heartbreak for the poor as Ruto walks back on NHIF rules

Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital’s Cyberknife Centre

President William Ruto (left) officially opens the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital’s Cyberknife Centre on Monday April 24. With him are Health CS Susan Nakhumicha (centre) and Prime CS Musalia Mudavadi (right). 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

The national government will not match contributions to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) for low-income earners.

This was revealed by President William Ruto April 24, eight months after he announced the restructuring NHIF that would see contributions pegged on incomes in September last year.

“Contributions to NHIF will now be graduated and will depend on people’s income,” Dr Ruto said while on the campaign trail in Kirinyaga County as he pledged to lower minimum NHIF contributions from Sh500 to Sh300 and offer waivers to poor households unable to pay the monthly rates to ensure the country achieves its universal health care goals.

Yesterday, while launching the Cyberknife Centre at Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH), President Ruto said the government was working to reform NHIF to turn it into a social health insurance scheme.

“We have interrogated the NHIF legislation ... there is no need of matching NHIF contributions. We shall be presenting new regulations to parliament by May 15 after a final meeting, which we will have on May 11. Failure is not an option this time round,” the President said.

“We have looked at the regulations that were challenged in court by our partners and now we want to fast-track delivery of universal health coverage.”

Dr Ruto lauded KUTRRH for its commitment in the fight against cancer as well as realising accessible and affordable quality health care.

“I have received three requests for linear accelerator machines from Nakuru, Mombasa and Garissa which will be delivered in the next 120 days. That, coupled with the Cyberknife Centre, should help us reduce the time Kenyans have to wait for treatment from days to hours,” the President said.

Last year, cancer patients breathed a sigh of relief after the cyberknife system was installed at KUTRRH, making Kenya the second country in Africa after Egypt to acquire the machine.

The machine, aided by advanced technology facilitates, non-invasive treatment of cancerous tumours and is an alternative to surgery.

“The new cyberknife S7 is an equipment that delivers painless non-invasive treatment by use of high doses of precise targeted robotic radiation therapy to cancerous and non-cancerous tumours,” an expert at KUTRRH explained to President Ruto.

The hospital has received 611 inquiries from patients and plan to start taking them in two weeks’ time with one session of using the cyberknife going for Sh350,000 which is lower compared to Sh2,000,000 in India.

“The treatment requires three to five sessions with minimal risk of complications or damage to healthy tissues.”

KUTRRH board chairperson Olive Mugenda revealed that the equipment cost Sh255 million.

Interestingly, last year, the Ministry of Health (MoH) had said the government bought the device at Sh675 million while it had, in April 2022, allocated Sh300 million for procuring radiotherapy equipment.

“At the moment, we have 360 in patients and 860 outpatients,” Prof Mugenda, stressing on the importance of detecting the genetic makeup of cancer cells so that treatment can happen.

“We have observed that we need more paediatric wards as we are now being compelled to use adult wards to accommodate children.”

“This country does not have a fully dedicated referral hospital for children at a time when paediatric cancer cases are no the rise,” she said.

President Ruto promised to support KUTRRH to set up a paediatric facility and as well as a women’s breast cancer facility.

The President also announced that he had instructed Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria to procure 30 acres in Mombasa to enable the World Health Organisation (WHO) build their hub.

This follows protests by Kenyatta University against putting up a WHO hub on its land, with Vice-chancellor Paul Wainaina insisting that the university had already earmarked the land for development projects.