All Makueni County "citizens" will be treated for free at all major public hospitals starting next month, Governor Kivutha Kibwana announced on Friday.
Speaking at Wote Town during a ceremony to flag off medicine to county hospitals and showcase medical equipment, Prof Kibwana said the programme, called the Universal Healthcare Plan, was meant to ensure that more citizens access healthcare.
“Starting at the end of this month, resident citizens will be able to access laboratory and radiology services, consultation for in and outpatient services, theatre services, cancer screening, medical drugs, nutrition services ambulance referral services, counselling, rehabilitative services, and family planning services at our six sub-county hospitals and at Makueni County Referral Hospital at no cost,” said Prof Kibwana at the event that was broadcast live on NTV.
He said: “All bills incurred by the patients chargeable at hospitals shall be paid to the hospitals by the county government while the patients are allowed to walk home without paying for the services offered.”
However, each beneficiary will have to part with Sh500 a year “registration fee” to cover himself/herself and members of their nuclear family, he said.
In addition, patients in need of specialised services such as surgical implants, specialised imaging, intensive care unit, dialysis and post-mortem services will have to pay for them, according to Health executive Andrew Mulwa.
He said the ambitious healthcare plan is financed through the regular allocations to the health departments “that were Sh200,000,000 this financial year plus the nearly 100,000,000 that we collect annually.”
“Ours is not a duplication of the National Hospital Insurance Fund scheme, rather it is a plan that eventually compliments NHIF,” said Dr Mulwa.
While NHIF cushions patients against healthcare costs across the country, he said his healthcare plan is specific to public hospitals in Makueni County alone.
Allaying fears that the new plan would deliver low quality services to residents, Dr Mulwa said: “We shall continue offering the best quality services that can be offered anywhere in the world.”
On why the devolved unit had started the plan, Prof Kibwana revealed that 64 per cent of Makueni residents were so poor that they strained to afford basic healthcare services.
He said: “Since we assumed office, we have established 49 new hospitals, 10 new theatres, trauma centre in Makindu Sub-County Hospital as well as 14 new ambulances to get healthcare services close to the people.”
Mr Manyuru lauded the health plan as innovative and attributed and urged other counties to replicate it.
“We managed to attain this fete because we did not waste our money since we assumed office,” said Prof Kibwana at the event also attended by members of his executive, Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau, Mission for Essential Drugs CEO Pascal Manyuru, Assembly Clerk Edward Libendi and Assembly Majority Leader Francis Mutuku.
Ms Mwau said the programme would make healthcare services affordable and make residents healthier while Mr Mutuku pledged the Assembly’s backing on the new healthcare programme to ensure that it succeeds.
Already, the county government has been treating its old citizens for free since May this year in a programme the county government said has been used to pilot the proposed programme.
Exuding confidence in the success of the health plan, Prof Kibwana said: “We have succeeded on the pilot programme; we shall succeed on this new programme.”