Covid-19 is not the only disease; join hands to fight the rest as well

Elizabeth Nduta has her wellness checked at a free medical camp at Kiawara Trading Centre, Nyeri County, on February 6. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Kenya has been positioned as a regional resource centre for high-quality healthcare in the region.

 The current Constitution made the health sector the largest devolved function. It also allows county governments design innovative models and interventions that suit the unique health needs in their jurisdictions, encourage effective citizen participation, make quick and autonomous decisions on resource allocation and the mobilisation and management of arising issues.

The devolved healthcare system has brought forth good tidings such as the upgrading of the once-neglected health facilities to institutions that offer comprehensive healthcare; free maternity services in public hospitals; installation of equipment such as dialysis machines, chemotherapy and radiotherapy services at the county level; increased accessibility to healthcare in marginalised and rural areas; and the easing of pressure on national referral hospitals as every county now has a referral ­— or at least a Level 4 or 5 — hospital equipped with various specialists.

However, it is disheartening that nearly all counties are drowning in voluminous challenges — including capacity gaps, human resource deficiency, lack of essential drugs, lack of critical legal and institutional infrastructure, heavy disease burden, rampant corruption and antagonistic relationships with the national government.

The health sector is, in itself, ailing. The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasises that a strong, efficient, well-run health system with sufficient capacity of well-trained and motivated health workers is critical in the realisation of universal health coverage. How, then, can it implement UHC?

Kenya has been positioned as a regional resource centre for high-quality healthcare in the region. Ironically, patients from other African countries flock the country for treatment yet Kenyans go to hospitals abroad.

The first ever Kenya Healthcare Convention was held on March 9-10 and, as fate would have it, the country confirmed its first Covid-19 case a few days later. Three months later, the coronavirus has ravaged the nation with more than 150 lives lost amid economic meltdown and curtailing of normal life.

The government’s response has been impressive, given that the already overstretched healthcare system. But we must not forget that we still have a hefty burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases afflicting millions of citizens.

The pivotal role of county governments cannot be emphasised enough. Instead of the constant tugs-of-war over county leadership, the focus should be on the citizens’ needs while building their own capacity. After all, good health is said to be the rarest wealth and the greatest of all human blessings.

Lilian Maina, lawyer and postgraduate student at Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC). [email protected]