Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kenyan Health Care Suffers From Underfunding and Corruption

Following recent remarks by Kenya's Health Services Minister, Professor Anyang' Nyong'o, to the effect that there major problems with health care provision in the country, there have been a couple of other articles on the same subject.

One of them calls for greater investment in the health sector and suggests that problems in the sector are common knowledge. The article is not very specific and doesn't cite the study it purports to be referring to but it mentions inadequate staffing, drug shortages, lack of equipment and paucity of facilities.

The article claims that conditions are worse in rural than in urban areas, which is debatable, but it says that the rural, slumdwelling poor "simply lack access to quality health services". Indeed, I'd say that in some places people lack access to any health services, quality or otherwise. Staff shortages, the article goes on, leads to the use of shortcuts, longer procedures are avoided and quick fixes are widely used.

Apparently corruption is also a problem in the health sector and "Provisions to public health facilities end up in the hands of crooks, who sell them to private hospitals." The article concludes by calling for more investment, but perhaps any finance or resources involved need to be more carefully monitored as well.

Another article deals specifically with corruption and mismanagement in the sector. Both the Medical Services and the Public Health ministrys are mentioned (there are two on account of the power sharing agreement made following the post-election disputes in 2008). This article also mentions shortages of drugs and poor supervision.

According to the article, the report by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission "found absenteeism by medical staff, flawed procurement processes, theft of drugs and other medical supplies, and unnecessary referral of patients to private clinics as major forms of corruption." There is also, apparently, a lack of clarity about fees that patients are charged.

Minister Nyong'o specifically draws attention to the possible contribution that unsafe health services could make to the HIV epidemic and various other blood borne viruses. But the health problems that Kenyans face are numerous. In addition to greater awareness about these there should also be far more spending on safe health care that is accessible to everyone.


No comments: