With a population of over 40 million people, Kenya continues to struggle to build a health system that can effectively deliver quality, reliable and affordable services.
Healthcare costs are rapidly increasing, access is declining, while quality remains far from ideal. The country faces a challenge in extending sustainable healthcare services to remote populations, providing quality drugs and medical supplies, establishing the necessary infrastructure and ensuring the availability of well trained health care workers where they are most needed.
Even with government initiatives aimed at lowering the cost of healthcare services such as maternity fee waiver, accessibility and affordability is still low especially to the poor and mostly uninsured masses.
Though Kenya’s healthcare system is well co-ordinated on paper, in reality it is fragmented. Over the years, there has been an increase in vertical programmes run either by government, development partners, NGOs or communities each operating independently.
To end this haphazardness, county governments should with the involvement of all stakeholders each formulate a comprehensive approach to govern their healthcare systems.
Of particular concern is the shortage of medicines in various facilities. It is pointless to construct hospitals and fail to adequately equip them. Hospitals must be sufficiently stocked to meet the patients’ needs.
It is impossible to offer quality and accessible health services without sufficient numbers of skilled and evenly distributed health workers. According to the Ministry of Health, the country faces a shortage of 20,000 doctors and over 40,000 nurses.
Another issue that must be addressed is the vertical approach in service delivery. For instance, an expectant woman upon visiting an antenatal clinic should not only be checked for the baby’s positioning but should also be checked for other conditions such as high blood pressure, blood type problems, sexually transmitted infections, diabetes, anaemia and genetic disorders.
Hospitals should purpose to provide comprehensive services to all age groups: children, youth, adults and the elderly. Similarly, the public has an important role to play in improving healthcare; communities should be sensitized on basic health promotion strategies.
Simple habits such as hand washing and exercise will reduce the country’s disease burden significantly. Quality healthcare is a shared responsibility of all stakeholders: governments - national and counties, development partners, private and public sector, health facilities, health workers and communities.
A healthy population is necessary for the development of an economically productive nation.
Manyuru is the managing director, Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies