Karua’s open letter to President Kenyatta

Dear Mr President,

Accept my greetings and best wishes to you and the nation as we navigate through the Covid-19 crisis.

I commend you and your government, particularly the Ministry of Health (MoH) for the handling of the crises so far.

Your increased measures for cushioning the vulnerable is commendable and we encourage continued vigilance on this score to ensure that no Kenyan is left behind.

I am aware that Universal Health Care (UHC) is one of your Big Four Agendas. It relates directly not only to the everyday welfare of each one of us but also, on all fours to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is my humble view sir that you can turn the fight against this pandemic, into an opportunity to implement the UHC.

As a measure of preparedness your government has been asking counties to look up their state of preparedness. Admittedly a majority of the counties are ill-prepared to respond to the coronavirus pandemic or any other major outbreak of infectious disease.

Very few of the counties have intensive care units (ICU) facilities or the necessary diagnostic and treatment equipment for major ailments. This translates to multiple referrals daily to the two national hospitals which overburden these facilities and create backlogs that end up hurting the needy patients.

It is against this background that I urge you Mr President to take this opportunity to ensure that each of our forty seven county hospitals are refurbished and equipped as necessary to diagonize and treat most if not all diseases. If need be some of the diagnostic and treatment equipment can be shared by a cluster of counties based on proximity.

It is also an opportune moment to ensure that our county hospitals have the necessary human resources.

All counties can do with additional human recourses, a fact your government is well aware of, and has already authorized the urgent hiring of health professionals in response to the pandemic.

The two or so counties that previously fired enmass their health workers, are without a doubt in dire straits in terms of human resources. It is time for the national government to once and for or come up with a model that will create uniformity of standards and protect both the health professionals, and indeed all health workers from arbitrary decisions of individuals in power, while also protecting the citizens who are the ultimate consumers of health services.

UHC is not in my view possible without dedicated health professionals. It is therefore of critical importance that terms of service of the health professionals be looked at critically and improved.

Perhaps it is also time to consider whether all government health professionals should be required to be in full time service of the government instead of the current situation where a majority have divided attention by serving the government and the same time operating private practice on the side.

This unhealthy situation breeds conflict of interest thus undermining service delivery in public health facilities.

It is a good time to overhaul and reinvent the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) and make them responsive to the health needs of Kenyans and to the UHC.

Further, it is time to integrate public hospitals through ICT to enable real time consultation of medical personnel within the county, across the counties, and between the counties and the national referral hospitals. This will no doubt ease the burden of travel by patients on referrals.

Rolling out UHC has heavy financial implications, but failing to improve our health system and to ensure access to quality health services to all, as provided for by our Constitution will in the long run be more costly to us as a country.

We are at this very moment is spending colossal sums to hurriedly boost our capacity to fight the pandemic.

Many Kenyans of all walks of life have been spending colossal sums which many a time render families destitute, to fly out loved ones to other countries like India, South Africa and other foreign nations for specialized treatment.

The majority of Kenyans languish without adequate access to health services when in need, which leads to unnecessary loss of life.

The corona pandemic has equalized us all. None of us irrespective of social standing can fly out to be treated elsewhere should Covid-19 strike.

We all must rely on our health system. It therefore makes sense for us to take the overdue necessary steps to ensure that our Public Health Service is capable of providing quality health services for all.

It was great to see the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson get treated at his country’s National Heath service facility. That ought to be the way forward for us especially those in leadership.

I firmly believe that post the Covid-19 pandemic, there ought to be an agreement among world leaders that no serving member of government including heads of government should be welcomed to look for medical services outside the country they serve!

In Kenya, Mr president you can make an example worth emulating by your peers by issuing a directive barring yourself, members of your government, and all appointed high ranking civil servants from seeking treatment abroad.

I bet you that such a directive will give the necessary incentive to all concerned to work on our health system to make it worthy of all citizens.

Yours sincerely,

Martha Karua
National chair Narc Kenya.

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