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Economy

MPs slash universal health funds

 Sicily Kariuki
Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki chats with patients at Kathiani Level 4 Hospital, where UHC is being piloted. PHOTO | STEPHEN MUTHINI | NMG 

The Universal Health Care (UHC) roll-out to the rest of the country hangs in the balance after Parliament recommended a reduction of funds allocated to the programme by Sh600 million.

The Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) said that the Ministry of Health was yet to table a report on the success of the ongoing UHC trials in four counties.

“The committee was informed that there was a delay in the operalisation of the UHC in the four piloted counties and there is no summative report … which would inform roll-out to the remaining 43 counties,” said the BAC in its recommendations tabled in the House last week.

The Health ministry has requested Sh4.6 billion to roll-out UHC in the remaining counties.

Residents of Isiolo, Machakos, Kisumu and Nyeri have been receiving free medical services since December as part of a pilot programme.

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About 80 percent of the UHC budget will go into the purchase of drugs and basic medical equipment, the Health ministry said earlier, with additional Sh800 million to be allocated to each of the counties for complicated cases that would be referred outside their jurisdiction.

The BAC instead proposed that Sh600 million from the funds be allocated to the State Department of Social Protection for free medical cover for senior citizens.

“Reduction suggested since the summative report on the four pilot counties is not yet out. The money to be used to boost allocation to the social protection for the elderly,” said the committee.

The 523,000 beneficiaries, who are entitled to State-sponsored National Hospital Insurance Fund cover, have never enjoyed the free cover that comes alongside a monthly stipend unveiled in January 2018.

The stipend was introduced to ease old age poverty.

The Social Protection Department, which is mandated to oversee implementation of the programme, made the last payment to beneficiaries in March after a six-month hitch.

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