UHC in Limbo as four counties being piloted hit by drug shortages

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President Uhuru Kenyatta signs the Universal Health Coverage charter during the launch of the UHC pilot programme at Mamboleo Showground, Kisumu, last year /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta signs the Universal Health Coverage charter during the launch of the UHC pilot programme at Mamboleo Showground, Kisumu, last year /PSCU
Barely a year since its inception, the much-hyped Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme has hit a snag with the four piloting counties running out of drugs.

The ministry of Health’s approach to achieving UHC has been through scrapping charges at all public health facilities, and ensuring commodity security through the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa).

But the situation on the ground tells a different story. My first-hand account was in Ahero County Hospital where I had gone to seek treatment on 9th August 2019. After slightly over two hours in the facility – courtesy of the long queues synonymous with public hospitals – I was given a prescription of amoxicillin and cetirizine which I was directed to go collect from the hospital pharmacy only to be told by the pharmacist that cetirizine had run out of stock. I was forced to buy the drug from a chemist in town costing me my hard-earned 50 Shillings.

Such is the distress many other Kenyans undergo due to shortage of basic drugs like cetirizine, renal dialysis drugs, reagents, oncology products among others.

Dr John Mwangi attributes the delay in drug distribution to approval processes. For instance, after placing an order it has to be approved by the Health Cabinet Secretary, which takes time. “….the orders have to be approved by the Ministry of Health so they don’t exceed their allocation,” says Dr Mwangi, adding that the orders for the remaining 43 counties are processed much faster.

The Kemsa CEO said there was a small budgetary issue, but they have since released the drugs to Kisumu and Nyeri counties after an agreement with the Ministry of Health.

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