November 21st 2017

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Uhuru ignores nurses strike as new manifesto pledges improved healthcare

The question however is, for how long will poor Kenyans continue to suffer over the doctors and the nurses’ strike and yet the government had promised to increase their pay as well as improving the Healthcare?

By Julliet Mwihakijmwihaki@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 27 Jun 2017 13:43 EAT

President Kenyatta (right) and his deputy William Ruto (left) during the unveiling of the Jubilee Party Manifesto for 2017 at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee government last night launched its manifesto pledging to offer free, quality primary healthcare if re-elected.

But this happened as the nurses strike entered its fourth week yesterday with  the Jubilee government and governors failing to resolve the dispute and call off the strike. Patients continue to die as they remain unattended to at public hospitals and today Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Secretary General Seth Panyako released the demonstration schedule for striking nurses this week, an indication that the strike will take  longer than expected.

During the Manifesto launch at Kasarani Stadium, Jubilee Party pledged to provide free treatment through an expanded National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to cover all Kenyans aged 70 years and above, all new born children with their mothers. The plan is also to expand the free maternity programme together with physically challenged children and ensure it covers broader services.

The Jubilee party also pledged to set-up 10 new referral hospitals across the country giving a comparison of 2013 where there were 56 ICU and now they have increased to 83 ICU in the major hospitals of the country. Jubilee manifesto also states that to reduce the heavy financial load and other issues faced by cancer patients with a pledge to establish a least one specialized cancer hospital.

In addition, Jubilee Manifesto states that internet-enabled communication in all hospitals for purposes of expert guidance and support across the world.They will increase the number of health facilities at the community level including mobile health services   to  fully equipped health Centres around their homes.

However, the Jubilee government has not made any statements on the issue of the nurses who are still on strike. Meanwhile, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists union secretary general Ouma Olugu said that the hospitals cannot operate without the Nurses adding that the situation in the public hospitals is getting worse.

The union therefore urged the council of governors to solve the strike as quickly as possible stating that the nurses are the backbone of every medical facility. Kisumu Health Chief Officer Lusi Ojwang’ stated that the strike is so unfortunate since it has occurred just after two weeks after the doctors strike ended.

The ruling Jubilee government made a strong manifesto in 2013 promising to do great things, for Kenyans.One of the  key issues being healthcare.  It had promised to establish low cost diagnostic centers as well as providing adequate screening and treatment facilities that will help to treat persons with chronic and terminal conditions that include, cancer, diabetes as well as kidney failure.

When they took over the government in 2013 the dialysis machines in the public health institutions were only 44  including even Kenyatta National Hospital and Eldoret Referral Hospital, they have managed to raise this to 289 dialysis machines across the country.

So far, the government has delivered through the Managed Equipment Services scheme which helped increase and improve medical facilities across the country. Jubilee also promised to increase pay for the doctors and the nurses as well as other health practitioners but this has not been fulfilled. After the jubilee administration came to power the doctors went on strike citing a collective bargaining agreement that they had signed. The strike lasted for three months and this caused the lives of the poor Kenyans.

The greatest gain that Jubilee has made is the free maternity programme which has doubled the number of Kenyan mothers who can now access an affordable maternal healthcare.

The opposition on its part has promised to launch the Universal Health Service Fund {UHSF} that will help to see a fall in huge medical bills. The fund will ensure patients receive treatment as has been the case with NHIF cards and private health insurances. The opposition leaders in their manifesto to be launched later today promise to ensure that the money meant for the patients is not put to other uses.

The 2017 Jubilee manifesto has pledged free maternity care to include the government-funded cover NHIF for every expectant mother for one year. In addition to that the party plans to double the number of vulnerable citizens that are supported by the cash transfer program Inua Jamii from 700,000 to 1.4 million citizens. This will include all citizens above the age of 70 who will also receive the insurance cover through the NHIF.   

The question however is, for how long will the poor Kenyans continue to suffer over the doctors and the nurses’ strike and yet the government had promised to increase their pay as well as improving the Healthcare?

Lucy Mwihaki contributed reporting for this article

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