• The lack of drugs and other medical supplies has of late triggered an uproar among residents, the clergy and politicians.
• Senator Ephraim Maina on Sunday called for swift intervention to end the problem.
The Nyeri government has admitted that county hospitals have a drug shortage but said they will receive supplies by next week.
Chief health officer Newton Wambugu told the Star on Tuesday that they have ordered medicines from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority.
The lack of drugs and other medical supplies has triggered an uproar among residents, the clergy and politicians. Senator Ephraim Maina on Sunday called for swift intervention to end the problem.
County governments buy drugs from Kemsa. Nyeri orders quarterly but has been unable to pay, citing financial constraints. Residents have been complaining that even painkillers are unavailable and they have to buy from private pharmacies.
"We have not received money [from the National Treasury] for February, March and April and so we have not been able to pay Kemsa. That's why they are not supplying," Wambugu said.
He expressed hope that they will soon get medicines worth about Sh40 million.
The national government has promised to release funds by the end of this month and that will ensure things return to normal, Wambugu said.
He said Nyeri has also passed a law that will enable county hospitals to retain the money they collect to enhance efficiency in their management. The fund created by the new law will take effect by next week.
"In the new law, hospitals will be able to use whatever they collect to buy drugs and other medical supplies," he said.
Wambugu said the shortage of medicines is not unique to Nyeri, saying all counties are struggling because of inadequate resources.
Governor Kahiga also attributed the challenges to failure by the National Treasury to release funds to the counties. He said the devolved units are owed Sh66 billion. Of the amount, Nyeri should get about Sh2 billion, he said, adding that the delayed release of the cash has disrupted services.
"We have not been able to pay contractors and all other suppliers because we do not have the money," he said.
The county chief was optimistic that all that will be sorted out once the county receives money, hopefully by the end of this month as promised by the exchequer.
He said the county has been trying its best to pay its workers promptly to make sure service delivery continues uninterrupted.
Last week, Democratic Party deputy secretary general Wambugu Nyamu called on Health CS Mutahi Kagwe to work with Governor Kahiga to tackle problems in the health facilities.
Nyamu accused health workers of laxity, citing delays in serving patients. The claim was rejected by the chief health officer, Wambugu.
Nyamu spoke after visiting a hospital in the company of some residents. He said people coming for scans, X-rays and other laboratory services were instead referred to private hospitals.
He urged the Ministry of Health and the Council of Governors to come up with a law that ensures all hospitals — from level 4 upwards — retain the money they collect for internal operations.
"I have been to dispensaries and all health centres in the county and the situation is the same. These facilities do not also operate during weekends," he said.
But Wambugu dismissed claims that health centres are not open during weekends. He said they are well-staffed to operate round the clock and only dispensaries do not operate on weekends.
Nyamu also raised concerns that those visiting the facilities are sent to private pharmacies to buy not only drugs but also surgical items.
He appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to revive universal health coverage so that poor Kenyans who cannot meet treatment costs can benefit.
Edited by F'Orieny