The Ministry of Health has been allocated Sh34.7 billion in the next financial year, comprising Sh19.8 billion for recurrent expenditure and Sh14.9 billion for development.
The money will be used to meet Jubilee government’s ambitious goals that include provision of free maternity services at public hospitals and supply of free drugs to the health centres.
The government targets the number of expectant mothers delivering in hospitals to rise to 72 per cent from the current 51 per cent.
During the presidential poll campaigns, the Jubilee Coalition promised to guarantee access to primary health care to all Kenyans, with a special emphasis on children, expectant mothers and persons with disability.
In the Budget proposal, tabled in Parliament, the government says it would reduce malaria deaths from 21 per cent to below 10 per cent by distributing free nets to homes.
The government intends to reduce child mortality from 115 deaths to below 74 per 1,000 live births, while infant mortality is targeted to drop below 52 per cent from 74 per cent per 1,000 live births.
It has allocated Sh14.6 billion to preventive health care with focus on provision of clean water.
In the past, delivery of services in public hospitals has suffered from inadequate manpower, drugs, and medical equipment. Although the ministry has in the past few years run on a budget equivalent to six per cent of the total government budget, that was still below the 15 per cent recommended by global health organisations.
The Jubilee Coalition had stated that their administration will increase the number of physical facilities at the community level and also expand mobile health clinics. Other plans include equipping and upgrading former provincial hospitals to become referral hospitals serving different counties.
The coalition’s manifesto also promised to improve the doctors and health workers’ salaries.
In the past years, public health care sector employees have been agitating for higher pay leading to labour unrest and migration of nurses and doctors to foreign countries.
Medics and nurses have complained about poor working conditions, pointing out they are, sometimes, forced, in efforts to save life, expose themselves to danger when they work without protective gear like gloves.
Health insurance will also be a major area of focus, especially through the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) — which is currently locked in court battles over plans to increase monthly premiums from Sh320 to a maximum of Sh2,000, depending on pay.
Only a quarter of Kenyans enjoy medical cover through employer-funded schemes, leaving out majority of the population. This has locked out many patients from accessing quality healthcare, with the State-owned NHIF unable to offer adequate cover.
Premiums for private medical insurance — covering in-patient and outpatient benefits — average Sh20,000 annually per household in a country where unemployment runs at above 40 per cent. NHIF offers limited service that covers hospital bed charges.