•NHIF takes long to reimburse the funds, affecting operations of some facilities
•For UHC to succeed the staff capacity, infrastructure and availability of commodities must
Phillip Mwololo operates a Tunza clinic in Athi River, Machakos county.
Machakos is one of the counties chosen to pilot the universal health coverage programme alongside Kisumu, Isiolo and Nyeri.
Apart from admitting patients with a NHIF cover, Mwololo also offers Linda Mama services.
Linda Mama, a public funded health scheme, provides a package of basic health services to pregnant women and infants on the basis of need and not ability to pay.
As Kenya joins the rest of the world in celebrating Universal Health Coverage Day marked every December 12, Mwololo is of the opinion that even though the programme is good, a lot still needs to be done.
The theme of UHC Day 2019 is 'Keep the promise'.
“The NHIF delays in the reimbursement of funds. Sometimes we sit and even forget about the money,” Mwolo said yesterday.
“For UHC to succeed, the staff capacity and infrastructure are very key. Availability of commodities is a must. Besides training of staff, they should be given incentives to feel happy as they work. If not there is no way UHC is going to succeed.”
Kenneth Ireri, a clinical officer who owns a clinic in Ukunda in Kwale county, concurs with Mwololo.
He is of the opinion that for UHC to succeed, the government should focus on restructuring NHIF and work with the private sector.
“A panel of experts was formed by the CS to restructure NHIF and we gave our views but we are yet to get feedback,” Ireri said.
A report released on Tuesday by Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa shows that since free maternity services were introduced in 2013, reimbursement by the Health Ministry has been problematic and continues to compromise quality.
Since reimbursements were not forthcoming as expected, facilities provided poor quality services. Lack of basic supplies also forced providers to refer patients to private health facilities where they were expected to pay for the services rendered.
While residents of the pilot counties currently receive free services, Kenyans will need to pay through an insurance scheme managed by the National Hospital Insurance Fund, when the plan goes national from next year.
The current free services are only available for child, maternal and mental health. Residents also receive free infectious diseases management, non-communicable diseases management, inpatient and outpatient services and community health services.
Population Services Kenya CEO Joyce Wanderi on Wednesday said there is a need to invest more in primary healthcare.
“As a person who has worked in public health for years, for me it is very important that we elevate the importance of preventive and promotive health, and look at the importance of community health workers on the ground while making sure Kenyans understand that taking preventive health more seriously is important. We should not invest most resources in curative but rather in promotive health,”Wanderi said.
According to the World Health Organisation, for a country to achieve UHC it must have a strong health system that meets people’s needs by encouraging people to stay healthy and prevent illness.
The target also entails detecting health conditions early, having the capacity to treat disease and helping patients with rehabilitation. It must also be affordable so people do not suffer financial hardship when paying for services.