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Majority of Kenyans say healthcare system has hitches

Thursday October 13 2016

A man fills NHIF registration forms in Kisumu  during a previous registration drive. Majority of Kenyans feel that the healthcare system has problems. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A man fills NHIF registration forms in Kisumu during a previous registration drive. Majority of Kenyans feel that the healthcare system has problems. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

 EUNICE KILONZO
By EUNICE KILONZO
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Nine in ten Kenyans — especially those in the rural areas — feel that the healthcare system has problems.

This is according to the responses of nearly 1,783 Kenyans, from all the 47 counties, who were interviewed for a new public opinion poll, Sauti za Wananchi, by Twaweza East Africa, an organisation that works on education, civic education and governance in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

This was in response to the question: “Which of the following do you think best describes the Kenyan Healthcare system today?”

The mobile phone survey conducted between June 7 and 28 this year shows nearly 47 per cent (838) say it has major problems and 45 per cent (802) say the problems are minor. Interestingly, about 124 think the health sector is okay as it is while just about 18 respondents do not know if the sector has problems or not.

When asked about specific aspects of healthcare, citizens said they were most unsatisfied with the cost of health followed by the availability of drugs in public hospitals in the country. This is even as Kenyans are said to be spending nearly Sh63 billion in out-of-pocket expenditure in health-related expenses leading to impoverishment.

Senior Programme Officer at Sauti za Wananchi Victor Rateng said: “Even when these drugs are available, most Kenyans cannot afford because of the high costs in the country due to the price variations. They have to pay out of pocket.”

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He made reference to another study released in April 2016 by Society for International Development (SID) which showed Kenyan taxpayers pay between 30 to 300 per cent more for drugs and medical equipment because of procurement inconsistencies.

This study — Sealing Corruption Loopholes in Kenya’s Health Procurement System — argues that the inflated costs means on a minimum, the Kenyan tax payers are spending nearly Sh1.1 billion more, annually for drugs and medical equipment.

Mr Rateng added: “Both national and county governments should work together to ensure all essential drugs are available at costs Kenyans can afford in all public health facilities as about seven in ten Kenyans got to such facilities, according to our study.”

Coincidentally, while most of the responds say they seek treatment in hospitals or a health facility, some visit a herbalist or a traditional healer or self-medicated both at two per cent, while some (one per cent) did nothing when they got ill or were injured.

The study further showed nearly seven in 10 do not have health insurance because 53 per cent say they cannot afford health insurance, are not aware at 13 per cent, nearly 12 per cent said they did not have information on how it works, another said there were no service providers in their locality while others said health insurance was unnecessary.

This comes as the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) is on a recruitment drive targeting nearly 12 million Kenyans even as they already have 6 million contributors.

Further, NHIF is introducing different health packages such as for cancer treatment, dialysis for kidney patients, and most recently, a surgeries package.

DECISION MAKING

Also, the study shows that nearly half of the Kenyans interviewed rely on health practitioners (doctors/nurses) as their main sources of health related information, followed by radio at 20 per cent, friends and family 14 per cent, television 7 per cent, internet three per cent, church two per cent, pharmacists and newspapers both at 1 per cent.

According to the Sauti za Wananchi survey on healthcare, men are the primary decision makers for their families’ health care issues at 42 per cent, followed by women at 27 per cent while the reminder said they made these decisions jointly.