Find lasting cure for ailing health sector

Access to quality healthcare services is a basic human right and this is rightly recognised by our constitution.

In Article 43 (1), the Constitution unapologetically states that every individual has the right to the highest attainable standard of health and prohibits denial of emergency medical care at any public, private or missionary health facility. In addition, Article 53 (1) (c) is very particular on the right of every child to adequate healthcare.

Despite these provisions, the reality on the ground is very different. Lack of enough and committed health personnel, unreliable diagnostic equipment, poor quality of care and inadequate supply of drugs, among others, have almost extinguished these health rights. The current strike by doctors has compounded the problem.

A recent health opinion survey by Twaweza East Africa through its Sauti za Wananchi mobile survey found that 75 per cent of citizens rely on public health facilities.

While health services at public facilities should ideally be affordable as touted by the government, the cost of the services themselves and drugs are often beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.

While the national health insurance would have been expected to provide relieve in such cases, the uptake of National Hospital Insurance Fund by Kenyans is very low. The same research findings indicate that 68 per cent of citizens don’t have any form of health insurance.


The quality of care in some of the public health facilities are equally appalling, unresponsive and blind to the demands of the citizen.

Truth be told, we do have very committed health professionals serving in far flung government facilities, serving amidst depressing conditions and challenges, but they do give their all.

On the other hand, we have doctors and nurses who are in the wrong calling. If not abusing, dehumanizing, or neglecting patients, they would be robbing health facilities of drugs and engaging in all forms of unethical practices.

At times getting admission to health facilities managed by such “professionals” is ideally a death sentence, particularly for poor citizens who lack alternatives. Instances of misdiagnosis and giving of wrong prescriptions are common with these “agents of death.”

With the devolution of health services to the counties, it was expected that the perennial unavailability of drugs would be minimal if not completely eliminated.

In the survey, 41 per cent of citizens pointed out that they were unsatisfied with the availability of medicine in their local facilities.

While document trail show procurement of medicine from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, the reality on the ground is shocking.

Unscrupulous county government officials often divert the drugs to private pharmacies.

What the country needs is not symptomatic management of emerging challenges but a holistic outlook and addressing of the roots causes of inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of the health care system itself.

Kipruto and Otieno are researchers at Twaweza East Africa.