Covid was blessing in disguise for ailing health sector, says Uhuru
Kenya has witnessed a robust growth in its healthcare infrastructure, thanks to the outbreak of Covid-19 early last year which triggered government action.
Before the pandemic hit the country in March 2020, the country boasted of only 108 ICU beds in the public health facilities, translating to an average of two ICU beds in each county.
But yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the country’s ICU bed capacity had increased five-fold by 502 per cent in the last 20 months.
“We had an ICU bed capacity of only 108 beds countrywide and in the face of Covid, this reality was a disaster. But given the collaboration between the two levels of government, we increased,” the President noted during the State of the Nation address in Parliament on Tuesday.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic period saw the country’s oxygen capacity go up between March 2020 and October 2021.
“We had a capacity to generate only 3 million litres of oxygen per day in March 2020. Today, I am proud to say that we have improved our oxygen generation capacity in public health facilities, by 10 to 32 million litres per day as at October 2021,” the President noted.
During this Covid pandemic period, Kenyans witnessed an evolution of technologies to deal with the disease through improvement of laboratory capacity. When the disease hit the country, Kenya relied on South Africa for Covid-19 sample testing, with results taking longer to come.
He said that in March 2020, there was only one laboratory that could test notifiable diseases of international concern.
“When the Covid pandemic hit our country, we had to wait for five days for the South African laboratories to send us results. Today, we have moved from one testing laboratory to 95 well-equipped laboratories,” he added.
He called for the intensification of home grown solutions to deal with future health challenges as has been learnt from the pandemic’s situation.
“That is why we have commissioned a vaccine development project for disruptive viruses like Covid, to serve not only Kenya but also the region at large. As the first step towards this goal, we have established the Kenya Biovax Limited as a venture that would locally produce anti Covid-19 vaccines,” he said.
The president recently directed the Ministry of Health recently to operationalise the company to ‘form and fill’ and eventual manufacture of the locally produced vaccine by Easter of 2022.