Kenyan patients suffer as counties struggle to manage health sector
08 September 2015, 21:31
Kisumu - Winston Okoth stretches
his leg in pain while seated on his hospital bed in Homa Bay County in Western
Kenya as he tries to sip his tea.
Okoth, a motor cycle taxi (boda boda) rider, has been at the
hospital bed for the past one week after he got an accident and suffered a head
and leg fracture.
However, since he went to the facility a week ago, he has
not been taken for X-ray because the hospital's machine broke down.
"The nurses have been monitoring me, only giving me
painkillers which is not enough to ease pain. I have just been told to wait
until next week so that they can write a referral letter to seek proper medical
attention elsewhere,"Okoth told Xinhua on Monday.
A nurse said that more often they are forced to transfer
patients to private hospitals because the hospital lack essential medical
equipment like X-ray, scanning and dialysis machines.
"Patients are suffering. There are no specialised
doctors to attend to them. Most doctors have resigned because of lack of
remuneration and frustrations from the county government," she said.
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Okoth is among the many low-income Kenyans who cannot afford
the cost of private hospitals and are forced to seek treatment in government
hospitals which are faced with various challenges.
Doctors and nurses unions have continuously raised alarm
over lack of drugs and medical equipment in government hospitals, but the
governors have asked them to give them more time to reform the health sector
which was handed to them in deplorable state.
Lack of proper medical equipment and drugs have forced
patients to desert the public hospitals. Over 400,000 Kenyans die annually
because of lack of proper medication and equipment in public hospitals, Ouma
Oluga, the national secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and
Dentists Union (KMPDU), said on Monday.
Oluga said that counties lack the capacity to run the
referral hospitals, and about 2,000 doctors have resigned since health care was
devolved. He cited poor pay, frustrations, and delay in salaries as the major
reasons why doctors have quit government hospitals.
"Transferring health care to counties was the worst
mistake the government ever did. Most counties have been unable to manage the
health care system and this is witnessed by the number of times health workers
go on strike; people dying of preventable diseases like Malaria and
cholera,"said Shakeel Shabbir, a lawmaker from Kisumu.
Shabbir vowed to mobilise fellow parliamentarians to table a
motion that seeks to reverse health care back to the national government.
"It is very absurd that simple medical equipment like
gloves, syringes, saline water cannot be found in public hospitals because of
procurement challenges," he said.
While counties are required to purchase drugs directly from
the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority, most counties prefer to purchase their
own drugs from private medical institutions.Workers in different counties have
also downed tools over poor pay and working conditions, compounding the problem
bedeviling the sector.
Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, who chairs the Council Of
Governors' Committee for Health, denied claims that counties are unable to
manage health care.
Ranguma said that since the devolution of health care in
2013, a number of health facilities have been upgraded into various levels and
equipped with specialized equipment such as dialysis machine, intensive care
unit machine, radio therapy machines among others.
"Let us appreciate what we have achieved in the
healthcare instead of criticizing us. Give us more time to fulfill our agenda,"