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Eyes on Kemsa for faulty medical equipment buying

By Hillary Mageka
Thursday, September 17th, 2020
A Kiambu Level Five Hospital emergency room installed with facilities under the Managed Equipment Services programme. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary

Kenya Medical Supply Authority (Kemsa) is once again on the spotlight for procuring malfunctioning Covid-19 emergency items, which exposed healthcare workers to novel coronavirus.

At the same time, microscopes procured under the Global Fund Grant and distributed by the troubled drugs agency for the 2017/2018 fiscal year were also faulty.

The revelations were made yesterday by Council of Governors (CoG) Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya who said then Principal Secretary for Health Peter Tum who chaired the Kenya Coordinating Mechanism (KCM) commissioned an assessment of the microscopes which revealed that up to 25 per cent of the microscopes supplied were substandard and faulty.

In relation to the medical supplies and equipment procured through Kemsa by county governments in response to Covid-19, Oparanya revealed that some Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) procured at exorbitant prices by the agency, were of poor quality and were wrongly labeled.

The Kakamega governor disclosed that his Council had received concerns from counties that some of the masks received were labelled “non-medical” and were very thick.

“Health care workers in counties in ASAL areas raised concerns that the thick masks had difficulty in breathing and were not friendly,” Oparanya told a joint committee of the senate conducting an inquiry into allegations regarding the procurement of various pharmaceutical equipment and products by Kemsa.

 “Some PPEs were noted to be porous and could allow fluids to get in to contact with health care workers while blue masks were of poor quality,” said the Kakamega governor.

Oparanya had been invited by senators to provide information concerning the county governments’ interaction with Kemsa as the supplier of pharmaceutical and non- pharmaceutical commodities to the devolved units.

He reported that the questionable PPEs were being supplied not as full kits but individual items.

He however noted that Kemsa supplies were reasonably of good quality except in isolated cases where complaints were noted.

On delays in the delivery of the ordered PPEs from the agency, Oparanya said that despite assurances from the Ministry of Health that it had enough supplies, distribution of PPEs to both Covid-19 hospitals and non-Covid-19 facilities was interrupted frequently.

Mortality rates

“It has continued to affect essential health services and Covid-19 response provision and has been cited as a possible contributor towards increased infections among healthcare workers lately,” he noted.

As of September 13, at least 990 health care workers in 35 counties have been infected with Covid-19 with 16 mortalities as reported in daily situation report No. 180.

Oparanya complained that counties are being supplied pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical products with a short shelf life, which sometimes compels county chiefs to source for similar products from alternative companies whose shelf life is longer.

Further, he noted that counties have been forced to destroy expired products and still pay for the same.

“There is also the risk of receiving expired products,” he warned.

On amendments made to the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority Act of 2013 assented to President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 13, 2019 and commenced on the May 17, 2019, which prescribed for counties to procure drugs and medical supplies only from the Kemsa.

Oparanya noted that amendments to the Kemsa Act of 2013, which came into force on May 17, 2019, prohibited county governments from procuring drugs and medical supplies from any other supplies thus jeopardising health service delivery in the counties especially in light of the fact that Kemsa is completely unable to fully meet the demands of county governments.

Further, the amendments go contrary to Article 227 of the Constitution, which outlines the principles of public procurement. The amendments further provide for a hefty fine of Sh2 million or imprisonment. 

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