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Kenyan rural residents enjoy doorstep health services

22 May 2015, 12:50

Kisumu - Two years ago, Moses Owidi, a resident of Kisumu would make three trips to Nairobi for a chemotherapy session at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

Owidi, a prostate cancer patient told Xinhua in an interview on Thursday that he would be forced to travel to Nairobi thrice in two weeks for the sessions since there were not available machines in Kisumu.

"I used to spend KES 8,500 on transport costs, about KES 5,700 per session depending on the drug. It was very expensive. I drained my resources," he recounted of the treatment that started in 2010 when he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Now Owidi no longer makes the trips to Nairobi for chemotherapy (chemo) sessions. He finds the services at Jaramogi Teaching and Referral Hospital courtesy of his county government.

He is among the thousands of patients with such diseases and others who are enjoying the benefits of devolving health services to the county level.

"I spend less on treatment. I thank the country government and devolution in general for bringing health services closer to the people," he said.

For prostate cancer, chemo drugs are typically used one at a time. Private hospitals charge higher fees compared to government-owned health facilities. The cost ranges between KES 11,500 and KES 194,000.

Health services are among the functions that was devolved in 2013 when President Uhuru Kenyatta took office. Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma and his Bomet counterpart Isaac Ruto said that county governments have helped people access health services that they used to seek in Nairobi, hundreds of kilometres away.

Also read: Salary mishap rekindles nurses fight against devolution

The governors said they have invested billions of shillings in purchase medical equipment to ensure services are brought closer to people. The services include diagnostic, x-ray, surgery and cancer treatment in health centres and referral hospitals.

Most of the health facilities at the local levels have also been refurbished and equipped, enabling Kenyans to access services easily and affordably.

"If it were not for county governments, my baby would have died recently," said Priscah Atieno, a local resident.

"She was breathing heavily because she had lung problem. I took her to Jaramogi hospital in Kisumu and she was operated on. These services we only used to access in private hospitals," he said.

There are, however, challenges of the county governments offering the services, leading to debate on whether health docket should be reverted back to the national government.

Last week, the National Assembly Committee on Implementation recommended an amendment to the constitution to let the national government retake the health docket.

But the governors have maintained that they have invested billions of money to revamp and restore the ailing health sector.

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- Xinhua


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