When Kenya adopted the devolved system of governance in 2013, among the key functions that were taken over by the county units was health. The transition has not been smooth since and the county governments have constantly been engaged in unending battles with health workers over unpaid salaries and poor working conditions.
It therefore did not come as a surprise when last year’s move by the Machakos County government to order the closure of all private medical facilities operating within a radius of 300 metres from all Level Four and Level Five facilities across the county sparked protests from the operators. In contention was the close proximity of private clinics, pharmacies, laboratories to public health facilities
The county government subsequently raided private clinics, chemists and laboratories operating a few meters from the Machakos Level V Hospital and revoked trade licences of the facilities that had failed to comply with the ultimatum.
The operators were accused of exploiting patients by overcharging for medical services that were supposed to be offered free in all public hospitals.
The county government has now been vindicated after the High Court dismissed a petition challenging its decision to shut down private health facilities and pharmaceutical shops operating near public hospitals within the county.
We welcome the legal conclusion of the matter and urge all the main stakeholders in the dispute to now focus on the delivery of affordable and efficient health services to the residents.
The public health workers that owned or operated some of the banned health facilities in close proximity to public health facilities had been accused of malfeasance, which compromised their ability to offer efficient services.
It makes no sense for the taxpayers to finance the purchase of medicines for those visiting public facilities only for them same to be denied critical medicine by being referred to private facilities where the same drugs are sold exorbitantly.
The provision of quality and efficient healthcare must be entrenched in our public health system if we are to ensure that majority of Kenyans benefit from the same.