Health care in Kenya requires bold steps to address the issues and restore public confidence

February 10, 2023 - 5 Minutes Read - By Mercy Kamau

The health system in Kenya has for the longest time been of great concern to many. A section of Kenyans have complained about poor services in hospitals where some have lost their loved ones due to alleged negligence by caregivers. Some cases have been taken to court and various committees of the Senate and the National Assembly have also sat to discuss such matters.

In 2010, Kenya promulgated a new constitution that shepherded a new dawn in governance and other aspects such as health. The Kenyan Constitution from 2010 gave prominence to health and guaranteed the citizens the right to the highest, attainable standards of health.

Further, the Constitution has since contributed to the development of various health policies and programmes that have resulted in improved health outcomes for citizens. For instance, maternal mortality reduced from 698 in 1990 to 510 in 2015 while under-5 mortality rate reduced from 74 to 42 in the same period (Ministry of Health, Kenya, 2019).  

During former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s reign, there was the Universal Health Care system (UHC). This is where individuals and communities access quality health services at a cost that does not lead to financial hardship. The UHC programme began in 2018 as a pilot programe in four of Kenya’s 47 counties (Ministry of Health of Kenya, 2018).  As the politics played out, this idea did not come to fruition.

Matters health are crucial and that is why a healthy nation is a wealthy nation, hence it is the mandate of the current government to ensure that health systems are aligned and well incorporated for efficiency.

While selling his manifesto, President William Ruto showcased how he would come up with a health service commission which he proposed would help the ailing health system.

A Health Service Commission is the institution that would regulate the healthcare sector through registration, inspection, monitoring complaints and enforcement activities.

In 2020, the Kenya Medical Association urged the government to create this commission saying that it would help in ‘healing the sickly’ public health service in Kenya.

This has not yet fallen into place and the question to Kenya Kwanza would be, is the plan for this still underway and what is the government planning to do to ensure that it is effective?

From local dailies, we have seen doctors and health care providers finding their way to foreign countries in search of greener pastures yet we cry foul that we do not have enough doctors in the country. In some instances, you will not find a doctor in a public hospital or you will have to wait for the doctor to come. Remember, most Kenyans are middle income earners, meaning most cannot afford the charges at private hospitals.

In most developed countries for instance, citizens go to public hospitals because their service delivery is top notch. This is not the case in Kenya. In fact, Kenyans have this tendency of disliking some government services as they feel that they will not get the best services. This is a matter of trust and confidence, which once is lost, is hard to regain.

Further, there is need for proper training of service givers in public spheres. This applies to all of them, from the reception area to other relevant sections in public offices.

Kenyans have complained about poor reception as well as rude care givers in public hospitals. There is even a meme showing a rude hospital attendant who once a patient asked for directions yelled asking the patient to sit down and wait for directions!  

There are loopholes that need to be filled to ensure that we get the best health care system in Kenya. In fact, the national government should be the one managing all health services and not the county governments. This will ensure that funding and management of the same are done at the national level. 

The idea of devolving the health system was well intended but the timing was not right. Once that is handled, Kenyans will get better services and there would be no reason to fly to India or any other country for treatment. Our hospitals will need to be well equipped in terms of human resources as well as other vital resources for operations to run smoothly.

The Kenya Kwanza government has a task in hand and Kenyans are watching and are all ears to see how this matter will be dealt with because it is fundamental

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