Ruto’s one year: The sorry state of health care

When he took office, President William Ruto promised to address the problems plaguing the health sector.

He promised to improve access to healthcare, increase the health workforce by recruiting at least 20,000 health workers and improve access to healthcare.

One year on, doctors are again threatening industrial action over poor working conditions, as public hospitals lack the necessary infrastructure and drugs are in short supply.

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey, at least 95 per cent of Kenyans have no health insurance, forcing many Kenyans to dig deeper into their pockets for treatment when they fall ill.

As Kenya plans to roll out Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for the fourth time, will Kenya get it right this time?

Davji Atellah, secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU), is holding the Ruto government to its promise to hire 20,000 health workers and involve health stakeholders in setting the agenda.

“The Kenya Kwanza government really knew the gaps at the time of the campaign and that is why they gave the number of health workers that should be employed within 100 days and if they don’t have that number within 100 days, the 20,000, it means there is something missing,” he said.

To ease the burden on the public health system, the president promised to invest heavily in primary health care and employ 100,000 community health promoters to provide health care for all Kenyans.

Reforms at the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) appear to be a step in the right direction towards achieving UHC, but scandals and cartels have dominated the institutions, the latest being the botched Sh3.7 million mosquito net tender at Kemsa.

Plagued by unresolved procurement scandals over the years, the Cabinet has since scrapped the NHIF and replaced it with four separate funds, including the Primary Health Care Bill, the Digital Health Bill, the Facility Improvement Fund Bill and the Social Health Insurance Bill.

Once the bills are passed by the National Assembly, county governments are expected to spearhead their implementation – a critical step that will see Kenyans required to register under the Social Health Insurance Fund.

On the other hand, health workers are now taking the Kenya Kwanza administration to task, urging it to put its money where its mouth is, as there will be no successful implementation of universal health coverage without an adequate health workforce.

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