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Enforcing austerity measures can finance healthcare reforms

Kenya  Medical  Practitioners Dentists  and Pharmacists Union officials and members recite their oath before they addressed the media over the ongoing doctors  strike on December 31, 2016. PHOTO | FILE
Kenya Medical Practitioners Dentists and Pharmacists Union officials and members recite their oath before they addressed the media over the ongoing doctors strike on December 31, 2016. PHOTO | FILE 

The doctors’ strike has allowed some of us time to reflect on our profession. In my rest, I recently came across a movie I watched years ago. Dave is a 1993 political comedy on a US president featuring Dave Kovic, a middle-aged mwananchi (ordinary person) whose job is helping unemployed folk get jobs. He also bears an uncanny resemblance to the president and occasionally imitates his speeches and mannerisms.

Dave finds himself fortuitously thrust into public limelight when the president’s handlers “convince” him to do a photo-op of an important event as a “double”, because the president was unable to attend.

Things get complicated though when the president suffers a cerebrovascular accident ending up comatose. His handlers clandestinely arrange his hospitalisation.

The new development means Dave has to continue impersonating the president in a scheme plotted by the comatose president’s top team to deceive the public that the president is well and forestall the vice president ascending to power.
While the strategy’s planners hope for a quick recovery, they are forced to let Dave make public appearances and hold meetings though only saying what they dictate as a marionette.

Pretty soon Dave as “acting president” gets a taste of power and a voice of his own as the real president’s recovery is delayed.

Dave starts making his own policy decisions much to the consternation of the plotters. When a project for homeless people previously “shelved for lack of funds” comes up for debate in the cabinet, he tries to see it implemented. The plotters tell him he can have it done if he gets a source of funding, a cool $650 million!

He reaches out for advice from a mwananchi (ordinary person) accountant friend to see if he could help. Together they run through the budget and identify items where savings could be made to fund the project.

At the next meeting he announces that his government would make new “tough budget choices” amidst discontent from the plotters some who were beneficiaries of the largesse contractors and tenderpreneurs enjoyed under the real president’s budgets.

Together with his “simple changes in government cash management” policy, he starts by decreeing contractors would only be paid upon delivery and satisfactory completion of projects.

He similarly implements other unnecessary government spending budgetary cuts. All in all hitting his $650 million target.
The project is launched to great public joy. He follows this up with other projects geared towards the common man and the presidency’s previously tumbling public approval ratings rise. His term is short-lived though as the impersonation plot is discovered.

The movie brings to mind the government’s lamentations that there are no funds to implement the healthcare reforms package doctors are demanding.

Perhaps the doctors’ union should scrutinise the budget and point out where the funds needed will come from.

My small list starts with stopping government luxury vehicles’ purchase (fix capacity to 1800 cc and maximum cost of two million per vehicle), a cut in entertainment allowances (to buy an ECG machine in each Level 4 hospital), stopping unnecessary jet travels (to buy and run ultrasound machines), ensuring meetings are held in boardrooms and not 5 -star hotels (to build and equip laboratories), making MPs take pay cuts and taxing them (frees funds for the salary of 200 of the proposed 1,200 new doctors annually) .

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