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State officials lock horns over inaccessible affordable healthcare among Kenyans

The government and health sector specialists appear to be at loggerheads over why access to quality and affordable healthcare remains outside the reach of many Kenyans.

Health practitioners are on the one hand blaming the government for failing to absorb trained medical personnel while the government maintains that its efforts to enhance access to affordable health care are on course.

While the government has implemented a number of initiatives to improve access to quality healthcare, opinion is divided as to whether the government is addressing the real issues that hinder access to quality and affordable healthcare. One such issue is the weak absorption of trained medical personnel and overreliance on community health workers in the place of nurses and doctors.

“Kenya has over 100,000 nurses. we produce about 10,000 graduates in the medical field every year. the government is unable to absorb even 1000. we have 60 percent absenteeism in the medical area. only 40 are working and out of the 40 percent, we can only say 20 percent are fully committed. you cannot run a healthcare system at 20-30 percent capacity. That is a lie.” Said Prof. Khama Rogo – Health Sector Specialist

This issue has especially come to the fore at a time when government is facing questions over the country’s level of preparedness against the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic that has so far spread to 99 countries, with over 111,000 cases confirmed.

“How can a country that is yet to deal with cholera deal with corona. People are dying from preventable and curable diseases currently. how can that very system fight a phenomenon that even world superpowers do not understand?” Questioned Rogo

But the government through the Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe maintains that Kenya is adequately prepared to deal with the deadly virus.

“There is no need for panic when it comes to coronavirus. We have a situation under control. Kenyans must help by observing personal hygiene. Wash your hand more often and in case of an outbreak, practice self-quarantine.” Sais Mutahi.

Corruption has also been identified as a reason behind the high cost of medical care in the country with lack of accountability in the public health sector being seen as a major drawback to efforts to provide affordable health care.

During procurements, we inflate budgets making machines expensive to buy. Kenya is the most expensive place to build a theatre in Africa. the cost is 30 times above regional rates. how do you expect to develop that way? We must see the government walk the talk in the areas of corruption. people should not get away from stealing public funds from social health insurance. they walk free then i cannot trust your system.” Said Rogo.

Health sector experts further contend that the cost of getting treatment in Kenya is far much higher than what it costs abroad.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, Kenyans spend over Ksh10 billion seeking treatment abroad.

“Kenyans spend 3 to 15 times more getting treatment at home as compared to India. Even with costs such as hotel and air tickets factored in, India is still cheaper. Out of the 40 medicine manufacturers we have in East Africa, 39 are in Kenya yet it is cheaper to buy those very drugs in Rwanda than in Kenya.”

But according to the health cabinet secretary, Kenya has the capacity to lower the cost of treatment and become a medical hub for the region.

I have a formula: the cost of treatment must be equal or less than India. that way, we can work backwards and see what we need to do to attain those results… let us not be alarmists. we are doing just fine. we are still seeing our neighbours come into the country to benchmark and get treatment. we will be working with banks to increase the grace period for repayment of medical equipment loans from three years to allow us more room.” According to Kagwe

Health care players and the government are in locks and the state says it’s confident in its service provision to Kenyans and quality healthcare can be achieved.

Whereas health care undertakers have a contrary opinion with a strong belief that unless perennial systemic problems are addressed, quality healthcare will remain a distant dream.

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