Government blamed for failed health finance plan
Failures by successive governments to fully implement the health financing strategy developed in 1966, has been cited as a key reason for the country’s ailing health sector.
During the health sector intergovernmental forum on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Mombasa, various governors strongly criticised the government for “dwelling too much on developing documents and hotel meetings instead of focusing on practicality.”
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu told the forum how she was shocked to find a Kenyan National Health Insurance Fund document in Malaysia, when she toured the country to find more about the success of UHC when she was the Health Minister in retired President Mwai Kibaki’s government.
“The first thing that shocked me was that the health minister who I was supposed to meet was not available even though we had booked an appointment.
I was told that he had gone to one of the provinces where a woman had died while giving birth.
I asked so what if a woman died of birth complications, is it not a normal thing?
They told me such an incident was a big issue in that country and so the minister had gone to find out what exactly happened,” Ngilu explained as she emphasised the success of Malaysia’s UHC.
She further said that day, the assistant minister who was supposed to hold brief for the minister ushered her into the office for a courtesy call before the meeting.
“He told me, I was told to take you through our Universal Health Coverage and I said yes, that’s exactly why I am here.
So as I prepared to listen keenly, he rolled back on his seat and picked a document and handed it over to me.
I was shocked to see it was the Kenya National Health Insurance Fund document of 1966. He told me, go and implement that because that is what we used.
Although I said thank you, I can’t lie to you, I have never felt so embarrassed. I was out looking sheepish,” Ngilu told the forum in Mombasa.
At the same time, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria accused the government, especially the Ministry of Health of allegedly spending too much time developing voluminous literature on health and endless discussions in posh hotels instead of walking the talk by implementing the contents of developed strategies.
The Murang’a county chief said the UHC journey started in 1963 from meetings at the Sarova hotel in Mombasa yet today close to 60 years later, both levels of government were meeting at the same hotel to discuss the same thing.
“Today we are back to the same hotel where our founding President Jomo Kenyatta was in 1966. We need to get out of these hotels and help wananchi who need healthcare.
We are spending a lot of money in hotels dwelling on literature and reports that end up gathering dust and our people are sick, suffering in silence in their homes,” explained wa Iria.
In a Joint communiqué Council of Governors (CoG) led by their chair Wycliffe Oparanya and Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, reached consensus on nine key issues they said must be implemented to ensure success of the country’s healthcare system.
They included, among others, involvement of the county government in the ongoing establishment of the UHC fund for social health insurance.
On UHC policy it was agreed that the Ministry of Health to finalise the process in consultations with stakeholders including County Governments.
During the forum, the governors hailed the UHC programme as the answer to the ailing health sector but warned that it can only be successful with proper and timely funding.
Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o and his Machakos counterpart Alfred Mutua who have had an experience of the program having been piloted in their counties, said among the lessons learned from the pilot programme was the need for proper and timely funding.
“One of the reasons for pilot programs is to help identify if there are gaps. And for my case if you ask me, I will tell you without proper funding the programme will fail.
In most cases we have had funding delays and that creates very serious problems,”Nyong’o explained.
On the other hand Mutua and several other governors, were of the opinion that for UHC to sail through successfully, it was imperative that National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF ) be totally overhauled.
According to Mutua, if UHC is implemented with NHIF in its face-value, then the whole objective of Universal Health will not be achieved since it will create a class system where citizens’ access to health care will be segregated based on the depth of their pockets.
“NHIF as it is now has numerous challenges. It targets to use a class system by diving people based on private and public hospitals,” he said.