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Court to rule on devolution of medical services

23 December 2013, 11:00 Millicent Kawii

Nairobi - The fight by health workers against devolution of health services to counties took a new twist with a fresh petition seeking to stop the process on Friday.

Two activists filed an urgent suit claiming that the distribution of health functions from national referral facilities to county health facilities is unconstitutional and are challenging a gazette notice effecting the transfer.

Okiya Omtatah and Wycliffe Nyakina Gisebe argued that devolution of health services means that distribution of health functions is to be divided into sections between the national government and county governments and has resulted in the current crisis within the health sector.

“The unconstitutional actions of devolving health services has seen health workers in the national referral health service withdraw their services resulting to a major crisis in the provision of health services and has led to deaths that would have been prevented, other Kenyans who depend on Level 2 to Level 5 national referral health facilities are bound to suffer irreparably,” said Omtatah.

They argue that with devolution in health services, the national government is assigned national referral health facilities while county governments are assigned county health services which include county health facilities and pharmacies.

The activists argued that the Transition Authority, the Attorney General and the Council of Governors operationalized the distribution of health functions to counties through a legal notice published in the Kenya Gazette on August 9, contrary to schedule 4 of the constitution on the distribution of functions between the national government and county governments.

The alleged illegal legal notice purports the transfer of Level 2 to Level 5 health facilities that constitute the national referral health system from the national government to the county government.

According to the two activists, national referral health facilities are the infrastructure for the national health referral system and they include Level 2 to Level 6 health facilities spread across the country therefore county health facilities are those established and are operated by defunct local authorities under the Local Government Act.

“The Transition Authority, the Attorney General and the Council of Governors have contravened and violated the constitution in as far as they have devolved Level 2 to Level 5 national referral facilities,” the activists said.

Mr Omtata and Mr Gisebe alleged that Kenya’s national public health care referral system is structured in a step wise manner and that these levels include Community facilities, dispensaries, health centres, district and sub-district hospitals, provincial hospitals and National hospital.

Health workers have indicated that they will join the suit and claim that they are not against devolution but are however opposed to the transfer of their salaries from the national government to the counties which have no proper structures to effect the transfer.

 The suit was filed two days after the court dismissed another suit by health workers challenging the in availability of proper structures in the transfer of their services to counties.

Another suit at the industrial court which obtained orders stopping the strike and the health workers’ Union officials to respond is set to be heard on Tuesday.

 Justice Isaac Lenaola directed that this new case be heard on Monday by the duty vacation judge.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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