Category: Healthcare

Why The New Government Must Ramp Up Investment in Preventive Healthcare

Dr. Kalua Green 13 November 2022 0

A few days ago, cancer snatched the young and most promising life of 36-year-old Wilbroad ‘Mumo’ Kahigi Peter, my Tanzanian son and very dear friend. Despite the numerous chemotherapy and various impeccable treatment sessions that he received at the Nairobi hospital, Aga Khan and Muhimbili hospitals, he eventually succumbed to this dreaded disease.

Tragically, everyday thousands of Kenyan families battle with cancer, often unsuccessfully. According to the Ministry of Health nearly 80% of cancer patients in Kenya are diagnosed at an advanced stage when cure is almost impossible. Even those reported 10,000 Kenyans who travel abroad annually to seek treatment do so because of insufficient local diagnostic and treatment facilities.

The new Health Cabinet Secretary Susan N. Wafula has her work cut out for her. She must figure out bold transformative leadership that will deliver quality healthcare to many Kenyans that cannot even afford treatment locally.

I recently seized an irresistible comprehensive medical check-up offer through the Thai Embassy in Kenya. The well thought out deal invited my family as medical tourists to Bangkok for eleven medical examination items that saw us go through 33 laboratory test items. Accordingly, I combined a business trip to this Southeast Asian country with the medical checkup.

The checkup was at Phyathai  International Hospital which is located in Bangkok’s Sanam Pao district. Founded in 1987, this hospital Group has grown to become one of the five largest hospitals in Thailand. Every day, about 2,500 medical tourists from all over the world are treated there.

We arrived at the hospital for check-up at 7.35 AM. Within ten hours, the courteous and professional hospital staff had conducted on 33 lab preferred tests to examine vital signs and physical checks, eye screening–visual acuity, Bone densitometry, electrocardiogram (EKG), chest x-ray, CTA (64 slides) abdominal ultrasound; HPV and Pap test, Digital mammogram among other complicated tests. The tests cost far less in Thailand compared to Kenya and other parts of the world.

Thankfully, our tests didn’t unearth serious medical issues. But they drove home a point that Kenya needs to seriously consider – preventive healthcare is ultimately cheaper and more lifesaving than curative healthcare. The doctors who attended to us advised on some preventive measures that we can take to thwart some ailments from sneaking up on us.

Preventive healthcare is a low-hanging fruit that the Ruto Administration must seize. At the government level, there is need to return to the aggressive health campaigns that characterized the corona peak seasons of 2020 – 2021. However, these campaigns should now encompass all chronic diseases.

Simple things like consuming more African Leafy Vegetables and walking more can lower cancer risk. There are of course cases of very active people like my departed son Wilbroad, who was an avid jogger, still contracting cancer. All the more reason for the Government to drastically accelerate rollout of diagnostic and treatment facilities in all the 47 Counties. But because that will take time and heavy investment, I suggest the Government instantly invests in preventive healthcare.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime every dollar spent on prevention can save Governments up to ten dollars in later costs. The new Health CS Wafula should hang this statistic at a prominent location in her office. The starting point in this preventive direction is sufficient and healthy food for all Kenyans. The World Bank reported a few months ago that the high cost of living pushes one out of every three households in Kenya to sleep hungry. To make matters worse, the current drought has left 4.1 million Kenyans without adequate access to food and water. This is unacceptable.

Indeed, the most powerful preventive care is to ensure that every single Kenyan can access clean, sufficient water and adequate, healthy food. Meanwhile, rest in peace my son Wilbroad. Think green, act green!

 

Let’s Use August 9th Election To Fix Kenya’s Healthcare Once And For All

Dr. Kalua Green 23 July 2022 0

Last Sunday, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaican female sprinter made history when she won a record fifth 100m world title. Upon winning, she uttered words that should jolt Kenya’s health sector into action, “I can’t even imagine the amount of times I’ve had setbacks and I’ve bounced back and I’m here again.”

Kenya’s health sector should emulate the Jamaican sprint queen’s resilience and embark on an unstoppable health excellence journey.

We are at a major renewal phase. The looming elections will usher in new leadership that can and must take Kenya’s healthcare to the next level. In addition, we are approaching our tenth-year anniversary of devolved government. Health is the constitution’s largest devolved function. Unfortunately, health delivery in the Counties has been so dysfunctional that many have questioned the wisdom of devolving it in the first place. Of course, much more funds must equally be devolved to follow such humongous functions. However, the problem may be with County office holders and not just the devolution of the function or requisite funds.

Since the 2013 advent of devolved Government, health workers from different Counties have gone on strike each year due to salary issues. As such, finances are the crux of these problems.

In 2021 January, Wyclife Oparanya, the then Council of Governors Chairman said that Counties didn’t have financial muscle to pay health workers more money. However, ten years is too long a time to keep having a standoff between the two levels of Government especially when some Governors stand accused of mismanaging health funds. Last year, the Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu revealed that County Governments had mismanaged Covid-19 funds.

There have also been cases of delayed County Government payments to the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA). In the case of Marsabit County, these delays totaled Sh73 million and resulted in KEMSA suspending disbursement of drugs and other medical supplies to the County’s 118 public health facilities. While KEMSA has had its fair of allegations, let the truth be told that delay in placing drug orders by County Government is also a big issue that is costing lives.

Innocent Kenyans are silently suffering as a result of blame games and form of inefficiencies involving healthcare issues that must be spotlighted and punished decisively.

More concretely it’s time for us to accelerate local manufacture of drugs so that we can drastically enhance their availability and affordability. The Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) recently called on the Government to promote local production of active ingredients that can be used to manufacture drugs in the country. PSK revealed that 90 per cent of Kenya’s prescriptions can be filled by locally produced drugs. I challenge the next administration to prioritize this local production of drugs. That would constitute a massive leap forward in our journey towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Last year in September, I wrote an open letter to the Minister for Health (a must read) and proposed several pathways towards world-class healthcare in Kenya.

Today, a resounding message goes out to Kenyans that ultimately, we must use our vote to fix healthcare once and for all. Time is up for shenanigans. There should be zero tolerance for blame games and finger pointing.

In the year 2000, Kenya’s life expectancy stood at 51 years. Today, it is 66 years. Although this is an improvement and based on various factors, USA’s life expectancy is 78 while Mauritius’s is 74. Evidently, Kenyans are dying earlier. A time has come for us to bounce back and so that Kenyans can live longer, healthier lives. Think green and act green!