Public hospitals ‘on the sick bed’

The rot in public hospitals in the country has been exposed in new reports by the anti-graft agency.

HEZRON NJOROGE | NATION KACC director Patrick Lumumba during the launch of the reports on public hospitals in Nairobi on May 12, 2011. 

BY WALTER MENYA wmenya@ke.nationmedia.com

IN SUMMARY

  • Institutions are plagued by corruption, staff shortages and poor facilities, anti-graft agency reports reveal

The rot in public hospitals in the country has been exposed in new reports by the anti-graft agency.

Two studies conducted by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) between October 16 and December 20, 2009, found that provincial general and district hospitals are on the sick bed, plagued by staff shortages, corruption and poor facilities.

Cartels, in collaboration with management, have taken over the supply chain as overworked and demoralised staff merely watch, according to the reports.

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The majority of Kenyans, unable to afford health services, mainly go to these health institutions.

Speaking during the launch of the reports in Nairobi on Thursday, KACC director Patrick Lumumba said the systemic failures in the health sector have created a negative perception towards public hospitals.

“The tragedy we have today is that our medical services are in a bad state. It pains me to see that Kenyans are now running to Loliondo to drink some concoction. Even our ministers have no faith in our medical services and seek treatment abroad.

“KACC has gone around the country and I have only one message: the services and hospitals are struggling along with many loopholes that need sealing.”

Medical Services permanent secretary Mary Ngari conceded that the health sector needed a lot of improvement but said insufficient budgetary allocation was a major hindrance to the ministry’s efforts.

“We have been examined and found wanting. These are factual documents that we have no quarrel with at all,” said Ms Ngari.

“We work with what we have been given but for sure there is a very big gap between what we are given and our request,” she added. The ministry got Sh21 billion in the current financial year, down from Sh22 billion the previous year.

The reports give cases of undelivered drugs, procurement units that are not properly established and staffed, lack of facilities to store drugs, lateness and absenteeism by staff and haphazard waiver of bills.

“Hospitals order drugs and non-pharmaceuticals from Kemsa (Kenya Medical Supplies Agency) bi-monthly but the agency rarely delivers on time all the items requested. The delay and failure by Kemsa to fully deliver hospitals’ requirements create shortages and compel hospitals to engage in emergency procurement, through quotations, cash imprest and other methods where value for money may not be realised,” says one of the reports.

Politicians and senior public officials have also been found to interfere with the smooth running of hospitals. KACC, for instance, found that some politicians and senior public officials write notes to advise hospital management to waive bills on certain patients.

Some hospitals are ensnared in a web of huge pending bills, improper record keeping and have no development plans.

A worrying discovery by the two studies is the existence of brokers who loiter at hospitals asking patients for money to fast-track services.

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