Universal health coverage step in the right direction
Universal health coverage is no doubt a stride in the right direction but whose success will depend on fixing key aspects such as staffing and financial management to prevent pilferage and waste.
EDITORIAL: Universal health coverage step in the right direction
Rolling out universal health coverage without corresponding expansion of staffing levels would make a mockery of the effort. FILE PHOTO | NMG
For millions of Kenyans, access to quality and affordable healthcare remains elusive despite recent efforts to improve the situation. Most households are burdened by the pain and strain of paying medical bills out of pocket, a reality that is known to contribute to increased impoverishment and loss of lives.This is the reason that Thursday’s official launch of the pilot phase of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme targeting 3.2 million Kenyans in Kisumu, Nyeri, Machakos and Isiolo counties is critical.Universal health coverage is no doubt a stride in the right direction but whose success will depend on fixing key aspects such as staffing and financial management to prevent pilferage and waste.For instance, rolling out universal health coverage without corresponding expansion of staffing levels, infrastructure and equipment in public health facilities would make a mockery of the effort because paying to get to a dispensary or health centre would be in vain.Then, there is the chronic shortage of medicines in public health facilities that needs a quick and lasting fix.Data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) shows that although there has been a notable expansion of healthcare infrastructure in recent years, these facilities are ill equipped and poorly stocked.KIPPRA, for instance, found that in the 2015/2016 fiscal year only two counties met the World Health Organisation (WHO) staffing standard of three workers per 10,000 people, even though the ratio improved from 0.25 per 10,000 people in 2012 to 0.6 per 10,000 in 2015/16.
Public hospitals in rural areas and those in the Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASALs) are the most disadvantaged by the shortage of medical personnel because such locations are associated with less access to training opportunities.The problem is further aggravated by the continuing departure of health professionals from public hospitals for better paying private institutions, both locally and abroad.Most importantly, mechanisms to properly safeguard the UHC funds from pilferage will be key to the success of the scheme.