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Presidential unit’s touted gains in health questionable

Striking health workers leave patients unattended at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu. file photo | nmg
Striking health workers leave patients unattended at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu. file photo | nmg 

This final lap in the election season has seen parties trying to sell achievements and promises. The Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) website lists five achievements: the Advanced Managed Equipment Service project, reduction in HIV and malaria incidents, free maternity services, and improved National Hospital Insurance Fund coverage.

The administration has however been hit by allegations of graft even in the Health ministry. Most prominent being the Sh5 billion Afya House scandal, concerns over the skewed medical equipment leasing deal, the comical Sh800 million container clinics tender and the shadowy Estama Investments and Business Capital Access Limited.

Another big failure is the refusal to acknowledge the crisis facing counties due to underfunding of devolved healthcare. That coming despite the 2012 pledge to increase medics’ pay and numbers. A glaring omission by the PDU of what is easily one of their successful projects is the connection of all health facilities to a power source.

All facilities sampled in my county now have reliable power with staff giving good reviews about the project. If this was replicated everywhere, then they receive a clean A. Prior to 2012 remote health facilities had no guaranteed sources of electricity.

Many lacked lights to attend to night cases and nurses delivered babies using lamp-lights. Vaccines fridges were gas powered and electronics were useless if one was working there. Life was horrible for a rural healthcare worker.

Under the central government’s initiative to connect health facilities with electricity, off-grid dispensaries received solar systems. This has enabled improved storage of vaccines, improved night duties and better security while also providing an opportunity to use entertainment and educative gadgets like radios, TVs and computers for health staff.

The PDU listed achievement of reducing HIV and malaria infections is debatable given the heavy donor funded nature of these programmes.

Does one claim success for a gift? In the absence of donor aid it is unlikely these targets would have been achieved.

A similar sentiment is shared for the NHIF numbers. For one, the fluid nature of the contributions means the number of those registered is not necessarily the same as those actively contributing.

Experience shows only formally employed members have guaranteed contribution but even this has hiccups given poor remittance even from government bodies.

Secondly, some of the elderly and vulnerable listed as members are under a donor funded project which is also facing hiccups with late remittances.

As a ‘‘digital’’ government my hope was that the Health ministry would have been roped in to get a technological shift.

The controversial schools laptop project could have been extended to health facilities to address the manual, cumbersome and inaccurate health records system.

I would score a three out of five for these listed achievements.

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