Counties must do more on hospitals
The Kenyan Constitution provides that every person has a right to the highest attainable standards of health, which includes hospital services and reproductive health care.
Indeed, Article 43 (1) (a) of the Constitution represents one of the many aspirational aspects of the supreme law which the relevant authorities have been tasked to implement.
This is what the government intended to achieve through enactment of the Health Act 2017.
The Act seeks to safeguard access to healthcare services for vulnerable groups by making clear the State’s mandate to provide the same for women, the elderly, persons with disabilities, children, the youth, and members of minority or marginalised communities.
One of the major requirements of the Act is that the government must establish a referral hospital in every county to increase access to specialised medical care.
We acknowledge that since the health sector was devolved a number of county governments have upgraded hospitals to improve access to medical services.
Indeed, expansion of health infrastructure, mostly in rural counties, has been touted as one of the key gains of devolution. But there remains a major challenge.
Most health facilities are not sufficiently equipped to provide specialised care for patients such as those suffering from cancer, kidney and liver diseases.
The result is the continued rising traffic of patients to the already stretched Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret which are better equipped for specialised care.
Most of the patients come from rural communities. The problem is compounded by the fact that the referral hospitals continue to receive hundreds of walk-in patients daily, whose ailments could easily be dealt with in lower-level hospitals.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicates that KNH handles over 1, 000 outpatient cases daily who could be handled by small health facilities.
The most likely outcome of the high influx of walk-in patients to referral hospitals is a drain on their resources and compromise in the quality of health care.
This is preventable if the national and county governments partnered to actualise establishment of referral hospitals in every county.
The move will not only reduce patient traffic to KNH and Moi, but would also give Kenyans access to affordable and quality health care services.
The other solution lies in the construction of new hospitals and equipping the lower tier health facilities to enable them to offer specialised care.