Taxpayers are losing millions of shillings on leasing medical equipment for specialised healthcare that are still unpacked and lying idle while the contractors continue to laugh all the way to the bank.
While the project is in its fourth of a seven-year contract, the benefits to the health sector are yet to be felt in many counties. A majority of the 123 hospitals earmarked as beneficiaries of the Managed Equipment Services (MES) project are not using the equipment.
An investigation by the Saturday Nation has revealed that the machines remain idle due to lack of electricity, specialists like anaesthetists, water and no connection to sewer lines.
A report tabled before a Senate ad hoc committee looking into the MES project shows that digital X-ray machines, which were installed in 15 counties, lack adequate electricity supply and so they are unused.
At Kapenguria Hospital in West Pokot, the renal equipment is neither connected to power nor to the sewer line, rendering it useless.
The two equipment delivered to Kamwosor and Chebiemit hospitals in Elgeyo-Marakwet lack theatre nurses and anaesthetists.
Of the 115 theatre equipment installed, 11 are not operational due to lack of electricity, anaesthetists and theatre nurses.
At Garbatulla Hospital, Isiolo County, we found ultrasound, X-ray, autoclave, radiology and Computerised Tomography (CT scan) machines still wrapped while the smaller equipment were packed in boxes.
Governor Mohamed Kuti, who is also the Council of Governors (CoG) Health committee chairman, said the county lacks specialists to operate it.
He added that while MES is a good idea, it was not well thought out. “The contractors’ clock is ticking as the public clock remains stationary. The planning was all wrong because we are now training personnel to handle these machines yet they should have been trained before the machines were brought,” he said.
CoG chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, who previously said that a machine was brought to his county at night and officials were made to accept it under duress, declined to provide more details to the Saturday Nation, saying they were trying to fix the matter.
“We had a problem with MES and now we are very careful about what we are saying,” he said.
As per the 2019 Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KMPDC) data, there are only 7,974 doctors and 838 dentists in active practice. Kenya has only 161 anaesthetists.
Kenya Medical Association Secretary-General Simon Kigondu said: “You can’t order a machine before you train the personnel and even when you order, it is the personnel to give the specifications. These guys just bought not knowing if there was electricity. This shows poor planning,” Dr Kigondu said.
The State rolled out MES in 2015. The project entails leasing theatre equipment, renal kits, ICU equipment and radiology equipment to counties in a deal running until 2021.
Each county will pay Sh131.9 million in the year to June 2020.
The devolved units each paid Sh95.7 million for the kits in the 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years.
This increased to Sh200 million annually in the 2018/19 period after the increase of 21 counties and three national hospitals under the project.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has time and again failed to explain why counties pay uniformly for the equipment despite not getting an equal number of medical kits.
Governors have accused MoH of failing to be upfront, adding that they were never consulted in the procurement of the equipment.
Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, who did not respond to our queries by press time, had previously presented the Nation with a letter from the Treasury showing that the money paid for the equipment was a conditional grant. However, the Senate dismissed the argument, saying grants must go to the county revenue accounts and are never deducted at the source.
“In every Division of Revenue Act and County Allocation of Revenue, money for MES has always been captured as part of equitable shareable revenue,” Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula said.
The Senate also reports that prices for some of the medical kits were inflated by as high as six times.
Taxpayers have paid Sh23.4 million for every ultrasound machine supplied by GE East Africa Services to counties under the scheme.
The ad hoc committee said that a check on medicalpriceonline.com showed this is more than six times the cost of an ultrasound Logiq f8 machine that goes for about $31, 474 (Sh3.15 million) on the market.
Sonographic essential mammography, mainly used to screen for breast cancer, cost Sh62.98 million ($629,729) or four times more than its market price of Sh15.67 million ($156,666), according to the price check.
The two are part of the Sh24.01 billion GE East Africa has subcontracted local firm Seven Seas Technologies to supply to 96 hospitals across the 47 counties.
GE East Africa Services is one of the firms contracted for the Sh38.7 billion MES scheme.