Vihiga plans law to save cash-strapped hospital from collapse

Vihiga assembly members are pushing for legislation that will enable the county’s Mbale-based referral hospital to open and operate its own bank accounts in a bid to clear old debts.

Majority chief whip Abdalla Chogo said the proposed legislation would soon be introduced in the assembly.

He has in the meantime asked county health executive Silas Kipkemboi to create a fund for the referral unit to end the debt crisis that has rocked the hospital for more than a year.

“As the assembly, we invite the health management in the county to hold talks with us. We do not want the hospital to go down,” said Mr Chogo. “Other than legislation, the Finance Management Act 2012 gives the health executive powers to create a fund for approval by the assembly to run the health department in the county.”

It is, however, not clear when the assembly would debate the legislation because it is currently on recess.

In an earlier interview, the hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr Geofrey Koba, blamed the more than Sh20 million debt the facility was grappling with on the freezing of its accounts and channelling of all its revenue to a central account managed by the executive.

“Before devolution, the facility was able to pay its expenditures for utility bills without fail,” Dr Koba told the Business Daily last month.

“But when devolution came in, the law says all the money collected by the hospital be deposited at a central account managed by the county government.”

He had previously called for legislation through the county assembly, which he said would enable the hospital operate its own account independently from the county government.

A letter by Mr Kipkemboi dated September 25 to the county assembly noted that the Mbale-based referral hospital had collected Sh30 million by September 23 and the money was banked in the account operated by the county government.

However, the facility is unable to offset a Sh20 million debt. The hospital also owes casual workers up to Sh503,320 in wage arrears for the last three months.

Mr Kipkemboi, however, said the county treasury would “soon” act on the request he made through a letter dated October 24 that called for the clearance of all pending bills for the three hospitals in the county.