Ruto’s healthcare pledges still unmet

Thursday, June 6th, 2024 06:00 | By
President William Ruto at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. PHOTO/@WilliamsRuto/X
President William Ruto at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. PHOTO/@WilliamsRuto/X.

One of the key promises that William Ruto made to Kenyans during the 2022 presidential election campaigns and immediately after he was sworn into office was that he would provide universal quality healthcare.

Indeed, it did not take long before President Ruto influenced Parliament to enact four critical laws – the Social Health Insurance Act, Primary Healthcare Act, Facility Improvement Financing Act and Digital Health Act – that were aimed at transforming the healthcare provision.

Healthcare has been plagued by many challenges since independence, ranging from uneven distribution and an insufficient number of professionals, and inadequate and obsolete facilities and resources.

Access to healthcare has always been a life-and-death struggle for many low-income Kenyans. With the four laws adopted, Kenyans had high hopes of a new dawn in healthcare. But the past few months have not been a bed of roses for the President and Health minister Susan Nakhumicha, as things appeared to get out of control.

First was paralysis in public hospitals caused by a doctors’ strike that gave the clearest indication that much had not changed to ensure that Kenyans have access to quality healthcare despite the government’s promises.

Public health facilities have been hit by an unprecedented acute shortage of essential drugs, exposing the lives of low-income Kenyans who cannot afford care at private facilities.

Reports from health facilities indicate that essential post-delivery medications such as oxytocin and carbetocin, vaccines such as those for yellow fever and meningococcal disease, painkillers, anti-epileptic and anti-diabetic medicines, and cancer drugs are out of stock. A shortage of key vaccines and HIV drugs as a result of the government’s failure to settle debts with the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and malaria is embarrassing.

Though the Kenya Kwanza government has taken various steps to address these challenges as the country moves towards UHC, how it has handled the challenges in public hospitals leaves a lot to be desired. Nakhumicha is in the middle of a storm due to claims including making pronouncements that point to an inability to get proper advice.

 The government needs to handle matters pertaining to health with the seriousness they deserve.

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