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February 20, 2019

Brace for high hospital costs

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala with nominated Senator Naomi Shiyonga addressing journalists outside Kakamega Assembly  after he addressed the assembly on 8th March
Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala with nominated Senator Naomi Shiyonga addressing journalists outside Kakamega Assembly after he addressed the assembly on 8th March

Some leaders have raised concerns residents may not afford the cost of treatment at the Sh10 billion Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Senator Cleophas Malala said the cost of running the hospital will be too high for the county to manage and charges will be passed on to patients.  

“Unless we engage with the national government to support the facility, it will remain a white elephant. Even equipping it will require over Sh2 billion and the national government has not budgeted for such money,” he said yesterday.

Malala faulted the county government for converting the hospital to be part of the referral facility. “We should retain the general hospital so that only referrals are made to the new hospital,” he said.

The national referral health facilities is a function of the national government.

Mumias East MP Ben Washiali said that already the cost of treatment at the general hospital is prohibitive and many people are stuck with huge bills they cannot pay because of increased charges.

“We appreciate the referral hospital, but it should not just be in name, but for specific conditions that will not have been dealt with at Level 4 hospitals and the general hospital, which is a Level 5 facility,” he said.

A spot check at the hospital revealed charges have sharply increased in the last three years.

For example, a hernia operation that cost Sh 3, 500 is now performed at Sh25,000 and an ultrasound that cost Sh800 initially is now charged at Sh 1,400. 

Bed charges have risen from Sh300 to Sh500 per night despite patients sharing the beds.

Hospital superintendent Dr Victor Zimbulu said quality healthcare is costly and residents must brace themselves to pay.

He said that although Level 5 hospitals are mandated to offer specialised care on referral at a low cost, quality care remains a challenge to the poor.

“We encourage all Kenyans, especially residents of Kakamega County, to take up NHIF to avert catastrophic health expenditure,” Zimbulu said.

KNH in Nairobi and other private health facilities directly control their costs and revenue.

The first phase of the Kakamega hospital will be opened by the end of this year. Once complete and operational, the hospital will be the first teaching and referral hospital in the former Western province since Independence.

Currently, patients from Kakamega, Bungoma, Vihiga and Busia counties in need of specialised treatment are referred to either Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret or the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga facility in Kisumu.

But Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe said Level 4 hospitals under construction within the county will handle the medical needs of those who cannot afford the cost at the referral hospital.

“We should not politicize the project because it will come with several other benefits for the local people,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Masinde Muliro University school of medicine now hangs in the balance after the regulatory agencies faulted the facility’s preparedness.

The school was supposed to admit the first batch of students in September. However, a visit by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board and the Commission for University Education  inspected the facilities two weeks ago and questioned the level of preparedness.

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