Governors look set to lose control of 11 county hospitals after Senate gave a nod to proposals seeking to have the facilities revert to the national government to serve as regional referral and training facilities.
The proposal contained in the National Referral Hospital Bill has also been endorsed by both the National Health Committee and Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU).
The 11 regional referral hospitals are in Garissa, Machakos, Embu, Nakuru, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nyeri, Kisii, Meru, Thika, Coast, and Kakamega.
Senate Health Committee vice-chairman Abdullahi Ibrahim Ali said elevation of the facilities will cure the gaps in the health sector, adding that it should face little resistance from governors.
“Part of the recommendations from the President in regard to achieving the Universal Health Coverage is that we need to come up with 10 referral hospitals and with the political goodwill from the top I believe this Bill will easily pass,” he said.
The Bill states that the upgrade will hand them the same status as national referral hospitals under national government.
If the Bill becomes law, the conditional grants of about Sh4.2 billion channelled to the facilities through the counties will go directly to these hospitals from next financial year.
“The money given to the Level Five hospitals is not ring-fenced and the ministry is not having an easy time in terms of oversight and finding out exactly how it is used,” said KMPDU secretary general Ouma Oluga.
Priscilla Nyokabi of Boresha Maisha, a civil society group, which is also behind the petition to have the facilities run by national government, said that counties would also have an easy time managing the lower level hospitals.
“All of these hospitals serve more than one county and that is a huge responsibility. The affected counties can now focus on the other hospitals and leave the regional hospitals to the national government,” she said.
She claimed some counties were building hospitals and naming them Level Five just to receive the conditional grant that they push to other functions. The Constitution, under Article 187, envisages and provides for transfer of functions and powers between levels of government.
The Bill also proposed that for regions not well served by the 11 hospitals, a further four can be upgraded in Kilifi, Wajir, Lodwar and Kitale.