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Economy

Counties get May 6 ultimatum for health equipment contract

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto inspect medical equipment procured through the Managed Equipment Services (MES) project at State House, Nairobi, in February. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto inspect medical equipment procured through the Managed Equipment Services (MES) project at State House, Nairobi, in February. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE 

Governors have been given a May 6 deadline to enter a deal with the national government on leasing of medical equipment or miss out.

Health secretary James Macharia told Parliament on Wednesday that 35 counties have signed a memorandum of understanding with the national government for the supply of the machines that will be leased at a cost of Sh42 billion.

The leasing deal will see two hospitals in each county or 94 facilities receive medical equipment like x-ray, ultra sound, dialysis, intensive care unit (ICU) tools among others.

Governors opposed the deal and snubbed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s launch of the health plan last month, arguing that the ministry failed to furnish them with details of the project, given that health services are devolved.

“Our deadline is May 6, 2015. If any county will not have signed an agreement with us, then we will not supply them with the equipment. We are going to proceed with the leasing contracts without them,” Mr Macharia told the national assembly committee on Health.

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Under the leasing deal, multinational firms General Electric and Philips will supply the equipment and earn leasing fees of more than Sh5 billion annually over a period of seven years.

The leasing would save the government huge upfront costs in purchase and maintenance fees, but governors fear the deal could see a cut in their health budgets.

On Wednesday, a lobby group—International Legal Consultancy Group—asked the High Court to stop the deal, arguing that the county governments were not consulted.

“Despite clear indication from the governors of the various counties that the Ministry of Health was overstepping its mandate, the respondents have pushed forward with pressuring counties to sign the MoU,” ICLG advocacy manager Miller Ateka said.

Rachael Nyamai, the chair of the health committee, directed the ministry to publish counties that have agreed to the health plan to pile pressure on governors opposed to the deal.

“We want Kenyans to benefit from the leased medical equipment across the country. We want you to publish a list of all those who have already signed up and those that have not for us to push them into signing the agreements,” said Ms Nyamai.

Kenya has a rickety public health infrastructure plagued by a shortage of doctors, lack of medicines and medical equipment. This has pushes the rich and the working class to rely on costly private hospitals with some seeking treatment outside the country.

The leasing deal seeks to revamp hospitals, especially those outside Nairobi and reduce congestion at Kenya’s main referral facility—Kenyatta National Hospital.

Under the leasing deal, Sh21.8 billion will be used for cancer and radiology equipment like X-rays, mammography and ultrasound units. Theatre equipment will take Sh12 billion, renal kits including 245 dialysis machines (Sh2.2 billion), ICU equipment (Sh3.3 billion) and laboratory machines (Sh2.7 billion).

Mr Macharia said the ministry expects some equipment such as MRI and CT scans to arrive within a month ahead of the cancer machines from the contracted suppliers in the US, Britain and China.

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