Queries as MPs end probe into Sh1bn mobile clinics

The Sh800 million mobile container clinics which have lain idle for four years.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Public Accounts Committee has ended investigations into the controversial mobile clinics, raising queries over the whereabouts of the expensively sourced container hospitals that were supposed to improve access to healthcare in the counties and informal urban settlements.

The parliamentary committee was supposed to verify the location and operation status of the nearly 100 portable clinics that were imported at a cost of nearly Sh1 billion. A fresh report released by PAC states that the clinics are in use, and Kenyans are enjoying their services.

Sunday Nation could not, however, locate a single operational clinic across the country, raising queries as to their true status.

PAC chairman Opiyo Wandayi said he could not comment on the matter before it is discussed in Parliament as it would be a breach of the House rules and procedures. “You know the procedures of the House, once a report has been tabled, I cannot comment on it, unless it has been considered and approved.”

From the initial tender agreement, Kisumu, Nairobi, Murang’a, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kericho, Nakuru, Nandi and Makueni counties were supposed to receive the mobile clinics.

The Ministry of Health indicated that Mombasa would get six, Makueni three, and Nakuru and Nairobi 20 containers each.

In Nairobi, the portable clinics were to be installed in Kosovo, Kangemi and Pipeline. No clinic was delivered in the designated areas.

MPs order redistribution of idle Sh800m mobile clinics in Mombasa

Later, the Ministry of Health changed its tune, asking counties to apply for the clinics as part of the national roll-out of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Each county agreed to take up two mobile clinics. But most of them have yet to receive the clinics.

When contacted for comment, Dr Sirengo Martin, the head of Department of Health Infrastructure Management at the Ministry of Health, said all the 47 counties got at least a clinic. He did not, however, clarify whether the clinics were operational.

A spot check indicated that while the portable clinics were delivered in counties such as Homa Bay, Siaya, Garissa, Marsabit, Isiolo, Kericho, Tana River, Mombasa, and Bungoma, the mobile hospitals were not operational.

Dr Jamaa Wolde, the Marsabit Health executive, said a clinic was taken to the county but has not been installed.

“When they brought it, we were told that they had contracted the National Youth Service to build the concrete where it was to be placed, but, up to now, we have not seen anyone coming. It has not been transported from where it was placed,” he said.

“As we speak, they are not working. We have not even opened one of them, they were just transported and placed here.”

Isiolo Health executive Wario Galma told Sunday Nation that after the clinic was delivered, county officers were informed that the Ministry of Health would allocate some money to make it operational. “Since the clinic was brought here, we have not even opened it; the Ministry was to build where it was to be placed but they said there is no money.”

 It is the same story in Garissa County. “It’s like the clinics were just being dumped in the counties as a way of doing away with them. In Garissa, it was only opened when it was brought, after that we closed it. It has remained closed,” said a nurse, who sought anonymity.

In Homa Bay, Prof Richard Muga, the Health executive, said they received two mobile clinics, but the government has yet to employ people to work in them.

“We really needed the clinics and we thought that it would help the fisher folks, we’re still waiting for the ministry to employ more healthcare workers. Each clinic needs at least five healthcare workers, I doubt if the original design for the containers worked,” he said, adding, however, the county budgeted for and prepared locations for the clinics. One was placed at Rapedhi in Ndhiwa and the other in Osiri, near the lake.

The Ministry of Health had indicated that in Nairobi alone, there were plans to hire 400 health workers and attach at least four to each clinic: a clinical officer, two nurses and a lab technician.

When they were first brought to the country in 2015, they were touted as a game-changer in service delivery, especially in far-flung areas. Services meant to be offered through the scheme included maternal and child health, emergency, outpatient, post-rape care, HIV/TB care, family planning, immunisation, growth monitoring and laboratory. The mobile clinics have, for almost six years, remained unused.

The 99 containers were imported from Guangzhou, China.

Kenya Revenue Authority filings revealed that Estama Investments, the firm contracted to bring in the medical equipment, bought each of the clinics at Sh1.4 million and sold them to the government at Sh10 million each, making a handsome profit.

Yet taxpayers have not had a chance to use them at all. The Health ministry last year requested an additional Sh600 million to furnish them and restore them to a usable state.

Mombasa was to receive six containers to be situated in slums. It has received two, but both are not working. Makueni has only received one, which is not operational. Two portable clinics were taken to Kisumu but neither of them is working. One was taken to Pala in Nyando but the other one has yet to be opened and was to be taken to Sango Rota, but the road is in a bad state and the container has yet to be delivered.

It lay beside the road for almost two years but was recently moved to the city when the county was hosting Africities. Kisumu Health executive Gregory Ganda confirmed to the Sunday Nation that none of them is in use.

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