New Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has a full tray in his docket. Though the Coronavirus threat seems top, a few other pending items must not be forgotten.
One chronic pending item is the almost stagnant Universal Healthcare (UHC) agenda whose fire seems to be fizzling. Yet this is perhaps the single most important item to fix of our perennial health sector issues.
With just two years to the next general election and maybe a new CS appointment, there is little time to leave a memorable achievement in the two years at the helm.
In the area of policy, a few quick wins present themselves. Coming from an ICT posting in his last Public Service stint, reshaping and purposing the ministry's digital agenda would be a great low lying fruit.
An evaluation of the health ministry's ICT adoption level indicates we are yet to fully harness or leverage the technological advantages the innovation era we are living in extend to us.Public health facilities as well as the ministry's adoption of the E-health workgroup recommendations, shows little implementation.
With most counties currently grappling with challenges on how to fund post-graduate training of employees, there is real fear that previous gains in increasing the specialists' numbers could wane. An analysis of transition rates to specialisation as a percentage of total doctors available reveals lower numbers compared to developed nations. As a middle income country, our ratios are not good. Is it time for a new funding approach?
What can we borrow from developed nations to successfully achieve their higher specialist to general practitioners ratios, especially given the rising lifestyle disease and cancer cases? Finally, some guidance is needed on the contentious issue of the Health Service Commission as well as the future of devolved healthcare.
Nairobi County's recent ceding of her health services to the national government as well as several counties returning oversight and management of some county referral hospitals to the national government have slowly eroded the devolution spirit in health services commission.
It would be interesting seeing that the HSC is one of the agendas a section of health workers have asked to be included amongst the referendum questions. Does the success of the referendum mean health workers control will revert to the national government? How then do the two centres of power work, with one section paying for the workers and the other overseeing their management and discipline as well as promotions.
Not to be forgotten is the dwindling role of the public health docket which previously was a separate ministry in the last coalition government. Some scholars intimate our emphasis on curative as opposed to the preventative aspect of healthcare is our doom. This especially given our low level of funding for health services.
For every dollar given to health services, at least 37 should go to public health, health education and health promotion services. This last Groupon particular would best be served with a technology upgrade and embrace. The future of public healthcare is improved predictive power.
The corona virus scare will certainly test our public health system preparedness in terms of contact tracing, isolation and containment of diseases.