advertisement
Columnists

Covid-19 a chance for united focus on health priorities

Kenyatta National Hospital
Kenyatta National Hospital. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Covid-19 has exposed gaps in Kenya’s health services that require urgent fixing. Although the government has attempted to address deficiencies to meet the demands of the pandemic and ongoing healthcare needs of the populations, there must be a radical shift in policy and financing.

The daily infection rates are rising even as the government moves to ease restrictions. The exodus of people from some of the hotspots, mainly cities, to the countryside means some of the under-equipped and understaffed healthcare facilities in the rural areas will be overwhelmed.

The slow pace with which the counties have been moving to meet some of the requirements by President Uhuru Kenyatta as pre-conditions have not been met.

For instance, of the 30,500 isolation beds that the national government had hoped to achieve by the end of June, only 10,000 had been achieved at the end of the period. But beds alone are not enough.

In April and May, African health experts such as pathologists, epidemiologists, and public health officials told Human Rights Watch that inadequacies in resources are due to insufficient government investment in health.

advertisement

A chronic lack of investment in healthcare infrastructure and equipment has made it harder for us to retain skilled healthcare workers, provide essential medicines, and reduce the mortality rates of perennial diseases like malaria.

The pandemic has brought to bear the urgency of a strong and concerted effort to cultivate training, research and capacity in public health to develop and maintain a prepared cadre of public health experts and professionals.

There is a need to emphasise public health approaches and knowledge in other professions, bolstering multi-professional teams and cross-discipline collaboration.

Covid-19 is not the first challenge faced by public health and it will not be the last. We must embrace a collaborative and consensus-building action on the continuing development and professionalisation of the public health workforce in Kenya.

The Covid-19 crisis has made the critical role of front-line health professionals obvious to and appreciated by all.

However, reopening our societies and returning to some degree of normality while remaining vigilant for potential new waves of outbreaks will require the united efforts of the entirety of the multi-professional workforce.

There is an urgent need for inclusive health policy — one that can detect and interpret warning signs and rapidly mobilise to isolate threats, absorb and adapt to shocks, and organically innovate to maintain its core functions, the delegates said.

There must be a radical shift in health policy from one that focuses on medical outcomes, to one that focuses on the broader concept of inclusive health, ensuring quality health from conception to end of life.

Investing in a strong and resilient health care sector is an investment in improved livelihoods, human security, productivity gains and prosperity for all of us.

advertisement