Health is a devolved function. This means the health sector in Kenya is under the care of county governments that have to maintain and sustain it. But is the sector becoming too heavy for county governments to carry?
The health sector is a very sensitive sector that should never be compromised. It is the real engine that touches on the lives of people. When the health sector collapses, everything else comes to a standstill. For many years, Kenya’s health sector has been termed as “the ailing health sector.”
What many Kenyans don’t know is, the right to health is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Constitution of Kenya. Article 43 (1) of the Constitution of Kenya provides that every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care.
Ever since the health sector was devolved, Kenyans in some counties around the country have never known peace in terms of receiving continuous and uninterrupted health care services. It is becoming a norm that every day, is strike day for medical practitioners in a county somewhere.
Should then say that counties have failed to manage the health sector? Should we suggest that the health sector was doing better under the national government and that devolution just made it worse? Should we just take it back to the national government?
I know many will be quick to say that the health sector should be taken back to be managed by the national government. But NO. It should not be taken back. That will be going against the Constitution that gave the counties the responsibility in the first place.
The little bird in the streets tells me that we have failed to identify what is ailing our health sector. People are quick to blame the governors for the numerous strikes involving doctors in some counties but governors are just being used as a scapegoat from real problems.
There is an ongoing strike of medics in Laikipia and Kirinyaga Counties. I don’t know about Kirinyaga but am aware that the Governor for Laikipia County, Ndiritu Muriithi has been doing everything possible to ensure that doctors don’t go on strike and that patients don’t get to suffer. In the end, doctors refused his explanation as to why he could not award them salary increment. They went on strike. The Governor fired them. Now they are crying.
The point I am trying to pass across here is that some doctors, having realized how important they are in ensuring the health well-being of Kenyans, they are using it to blackmail counties for higher pay. I think, most doctors are not aware of the procedures that are to be followed for a Governor to okay an increment in salaries. There are various factors to be considered, for instance, how much cash at hand the county has, how much those demanding for a salary increment are earning, and the sustainability of the new salaries if they are implemented among other things. It is not just about demanding and boom, money flows to the bank account.
The point above brings me to what I have been thinking; should the national government, in consultation with doctors come up with a uniform payment system that will be satisfactory to both parties and one that will be followed by all counties? Better still, should the counties be left to handle the general basic health, the way it is for Education, then the national government be left to manage and pay doctors?