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Health & Fitness

Costly fuel to hit crucial health sector operations

An ambulance in Lamu.
An ambulance in Lamu. High cost of fuel may affect health service delivery. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT 

The proposed fuel price adjustment that took place this weekend, has hit motorists in the pockets.

Financial sector analysts indicate that the impact is likely to spiral down to other areas. The health sector players may also not be spared.

For us, transport and logistics play a significant part in our interventions both for patients, providers and those in the medical supply chain.

Several publications about the effect of petroleum pricing on healthcare industry indicate that we are not immune from prices shifts.

Low-income commuters will have to adjust budgets to accommodate the anticipated rise across sectors. While a direct cost correlation between manufacturing and fuel price changes is observed, products may also be retailed at prices that accommodate these changes.

Because hospitals are convergence focal centres, they tend to rely on transport a lot. For instance, taking data from a busy Level 6 referral hospital with an estimated daily rate of 10,000 visitors, the cumulative kilometres covered to and from a hospital visit is not insignificant.

Many of these journeys are often made by one or two caretakers. Thus the impact of the adjustment has a multiplier effect on a patient’s overall care commute.

The pinch will be felt on the logistics of medical goods, laboratory supplies and pharmaceuticals. The mobility of workers and patients is also affected.

Revelations earlier on in the year that the top destination for one of the leading taxi-hailing apps was a hospital point to this.

Already the transport sector and taxi-hailing apps with algorithms embedded into their calculations have effected changes. Increasingly mobility is shaping our health scene — pharmacies are doing door deliveries and lab samples are picked form satellite clinic, among others.

As far as the real impact on services consumption goes, an example is deciding if to still hail a cab that previously cost Sh390 but has now moved past the Sh400 mark.

Though not a large aspect of the medical logistics chain, ambulance operators may experience the pinch.

Subsidised government-funded projects such as free ambulance referrals for complicated pregnancies may need a strategy to cushion the rise from pushing their budgetary limits.

Without a foreseeable reduction in the horizon, once the new prices take place, the implications are that extra cost must be factored in as a long-term cost of production or operational expenditure.

That said, it is also an opportunity to try out some efficiency optimisation strategies for organisations and individuals. Utility optimising motorising strategies such as carpooling could be adopted to lower one’s transport costs.

Better still, a walking phase of your daily commute is also a healthy strategy to keep your budget intact.

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