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End biting drugs shortage

Sunday August 5 2018

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The public health sector, which has been rocked by strikes and other challenges in the recent past, is now embroiled in yet another problem that is hampering the delivery of its crucial service.

There is a biting shortage of drugs in various county hospitals, which is making a mockery of the devolution of medical services.

The ongoing revamping of public hospitals and health centres as part of the devolving of this vital service was clearly meant to bring not just health personnel, but also facilities and medicines closer to the people.

The thinking behind this was to help ease the burden on the few referral hospitals, including the Kenyatta National Hospital, and ease patients' access to qualified health personnel.

Protracted strikes by doctors and nurses exposed the counties' lack of capacity to efficiently handle this vital docket.



It is for this reason that many have called for the return of the healthcare docket to the national government.

Although the strikes may have ended following negotiations with the doctors' and nurses' unions, there are still some outstanding issues, especially in human resource management, that the counties have failed to tackle.

The current drug shortage is as a result of the decision by the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) to stop deliveries to counties that owe it lots of money.

Some of the payments have been outstanding for a long time and yet Kemsa must procure drugs for distribution to the county hospitals.


By June, the counties owed Kemsa Sh5.8 billion, a colossal sum of money by any standards. The richest county, Nairobi, for instance, owes Sh235 million.

It is no secret that despite allocations from the National Treasury, the counties, having failed to develop alternative sources of revenue, are cash-strapped.

Indeed, the Kemsa debt is among the many huge pending bills the counties are grappling with, a situation worsened by mismanagement and rampant corruption.

It is, however, surprising to learn that Kemsa rejected Sh60 million as part payment from one county.