Society / Health & Science
Friday, 16 Sep 2016 19:24 EATrosemukonyo@yahoo.com
Long recognized for its high investment in revamping health services since the advent of devolution, Makueni County has scored another first by rolling out a free healthcare programme for all residents.
Makueni County Governor Kivutha Kibwana launched a universal healthcare programme that will see residents get free medical services. The program is the first of its kind in Kenya and in much of Africa, and it will be funded from county government resources without need for private health insurance.
Speaking during the launch of the programme at Wote Town today, Prof. Kibwana said that a three-month pilot study had been carried out prior to the launch. Since May, elderly people aged over 65 have been privileged to access free healthcare in the county as the authorities assessed its capability for rolling out the programme to all residents.
Prof. Kibwana said at the launch that his administration was committed to ensure that provisions of Kenya's Constitution relating to health rights and the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) were met in the county.
He said the county government had set aside Sh200 million to ensure the programmme’s sustainability and increased the staff capacity at local hospitals. “We have consequently hired 400 new health workers among them 30 medical doctors and 250 nurses to work in our various health institutions," he disclosed.
The programme plans to put up ten new theatres, Mother and Child centers, a Trauma center and 14 new fully loaded ambulances which he said, would help boost the programme.
“What we have achieved today is an indicator that devolution can yield immeasurable success and we are inviting other counties to borrow a leaf from Makueni," he added.
County Executive Member for Health, Andrew Mulwa, said the new health plan is aimed at covering majority of the county residents who cannot afford health cover through the National Hospital Insurance Fund as well as other private health insurers.
“The current penetration rate for NHIF cover in Makueni is barely 8 percent and we cannot allow 92 percent of poor residents who cannot afford health insurance cover to wallow in ill health,” said Dr Mulwa. He however stated clearly that the programme did not come to replace the existing NHIF.
Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau praised the initiative, describing it as a major relief for women who in most cases bear the greatest burden of caring for the sick.
The ceremony which was also attended by the Chief Executive Officer of Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS), Pascal Manyuru, who described the program as ‘an excellent pace setter’ for other counties and added that they would work with the county government to ensure the programme succeeds.
Makueni County has been commended for prioritising health services. It spends a greater part of its budget on health than do nearly all the rest of the counties.
The county has acquired state of the art equipment for its health centres, including the reciept two months ago of medical kits worth over Sh100 million from donors in the USA.
Rose is a contributing writer for the Kenya Free Press, based in Machakos County.