A critical moment to reassess healthcare
Wednesday, April 7th, 2021
Today is World Health Day, the second in the pandemic season that has revealed gaps within health systems across the world.
It is, therefore, befitting that the theme would focus on building a fairer and equal world.
In Kenya, we have witnessed how the coronavirus pandemic has brought an already struggling health sector to its knees.
Not only are we battling effects of the pandemic, we are also suffering from the impact of other diseases, some of which have taken a backseat as we give priority to Covid-19.
The situation calls for us to go back to the drawing board, and lay out new strategies on making our health sector better.
The status of the sector can be assessed not only by inability to access care but also the number of fundraising requests doing rounds on social media to clear hospital bills or facilitate funerals.
It is also perceptible in the many complaints by healthcare workers, some of whom have repeatedly downed their tools to demand better pay, better facilities and protective equipment.
Statistics show that in 2014, six out of every 10 Kenyans did not have access to essential healthcare services, and four out of 10 were at risk of getting in financial hardship or poverty because of out-of-pocket payments for healthcare services.
It is against this background that experts including the World Health Organisation, are calling on leaders to not only monitor health inequalities but also ensure people can access health care when needed and live in environments conducive to good health.
Of priority is to make the sector about people, especially vulnerable communities, to address inequities such as poverty, unemployment and pre-existing conditions including disability.
The adoption of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is in the right direction, but with the deadline set for 2022, Kenya is almost running out of time.
There is also need to strengthen structures including primary health care, which is a precursor of UHC. Ensuring adequate facilities, skilled personnel and accessibility to both will be a step in the right direction as Kenyans will be confident to visit healthcare facilities as early as they can instead of waiting until it is too late, and disease has progressed.
Scandals in the sector, from graft to lack of transparency, are holding back citizens’ right to the highest standards of healthcare.
It is about time all stakeholders and duty bearers put in place the right mechanisms for transparency and accountability to stem out graft in this crucial sector and give Kenyans what is rightfully theirs.