High Cost of Healthcare Pushing Kenyans to Poverty

L-R: Prof. Ikua, Dr. Njenga, Prof. Mengech and Dr. Thuo follow conference proceedings 

Health Cabinet Secretary, Cecily Kariuki has said, prohibitive cost of accessing quality health care services in the country has driven about one million Kenyans to live below the poverty line annually, with many more left on the brink of financial ruin.

The Cabinet Secretary further said, “The consequences of ill-health are deterrent to the optimal growth and development of our children; the well-being of our expectant women and survival of those with chronic diseases and the elderly, thus impacting negatively on the productivity of our nation.”

The Cabinet Secretary was speaking during the official opening of the JKUAT-Universal Health Care (UHC) – County Community Partnership Conference, Thursday, August 15, 2019, where she was represented by the Chairperson, Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council, Dr. Eva Njenga, who launched the JKUAT-Universal Health Care Model.  

The model, christened; “AMUA-AFYA BORA-MASHINANI,” developed by JKUAT, is being touted by primary health care stakeholders as an enabler of both county and national government in accelerating the attainment of UHC in Kenya.

The model is intended to complement the national and county governments’ efforts in the attainment of the Cuban system of health care by 2022 as envisioned by His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta by putting skills in the hands of primary health care workers for the attainment of UHC and SDG 3 – “Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.

Dr. Njenga (centre, right) and Prof. Ikua (right) interact with healthcare service providers. 

AMUA-AFYABORA-MASHINANI embodies the University’s quest to support counties deliver a cost effective and sustainable UHC to communities they serve.

The Cabinet Secretary outlined the ministry’s policies and plans to integrate universities in the attainment of UHC at Primary Health Care (PHC) levels, noting the health sector cannot do it alone.

“We are reaching out to various sectors such as academia to inform policy through research and innovation; Energy – to ensure that there is electricity in our facilities; Water – to ensure there is safe running water in our facilities,” she said.

Dr. Njenga added that ICT sector could help in digitization of health facilities to boost health information system and lauded JKUAT as one of the stakeholders working hard to support both the county and national government in the realization of sustainable UHC.

 “I extend invitation to other universities to follow suit in developing innovative strategies toward helping both the county and national governments attain a sustainable UHC, said the Cabinet Secretary.

JKUAT Vice Chancellor, Prof Victoria Wambui Ngumi underscored the importance of primary health care, characterizing it as “The entry point of any patient into the health care system.”

Dean School of Medicine, Dr. Thuo explains to guests how the Digital Health Applied Research Centre based at JKUAT operates. 

Prof. Ngumi who was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Administration, Prof. Bernard Ikua, said, the JKUAT-UHC model “AMUA-AFYA BORA-MASHINANI seeks to ensure the entry to the health care system is right.  JKUAT she observed, has taken the lead role through training county health care workers in health information systems.

She informed the delegates that JKUAT was involved in a number of initiatives, citing the development of a digital lab meant to facilitate real time localization and integration of all patient data collected by community health workers on a GPS-bio data platform.

As a demonstration of commitment to help the national government realize the UHC agenda, Prof. Ngumi said, the College of Health Sciences is remodeling itself as it defines its niche as “A centre of excellence in training primary health care workers” who serve over 75% of the population in the rural under-served communities.

The Vice Chancellor stated that JKUAT’s was focused on “helping counties operationalize health centers and dispensaries to run for 24 hours, building capacity of primary health care providers and empower them to offer a wide range of services, currently not available at the grass roots.

Registrar of Clinical Officers Council, Peris Wawire addressing the delegates.

Prof. Ngumi appealed to the health ministry and county governments to work out a plan on how to pilot the JKUAT-UHC Model in counties.

The Principal, College of Health Sciences (JKUAT), Prof. Haroun Mengech decried the over concentration on financing Level 5 and 6 hospitals (25% urban), and less attention to PHC Level 1- 3 which serve over 75% of the Kenyan rural population, a fact he emphasized, “had created a huge gap in accessibility to quality health care services between urban and rural populations.”

Highlighting the challenges in referral systems, Prof. Mengech said, human resource for health, is the cornerstone of an efficient health care system.  Kenya health care system, he added, has a deficit of about 350,000 health care personnel, thus calling for the development of a sustainable solution. World Bank estimates indicate that only 3% of the rural population has any form of health insurance cover. Quality and affordable health care services being beyond the reach to over 75% of the common people.

Primary healthcare stakeholders during group discussions.

The two-day conference themed: Sorting out primary health care: word to action, drew participants from County Assemblies, Clinical Officers Council, Kenya Clinical Officers Association, Kenya Union of Clinical Officers, and academia, also saw the launch of the Digital Health Applied Research Centre (DHARC).

The centre will be critical in creating an environment for sharing knowledge and experiences around innovative digital health tools.

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