The government has been asked to hire more doctors to support the Universal Health Coverage launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta last week.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union yesterday said they support the UHC but faulted its financing aspect which it said lacked direction.
Uhuru on Thursday launched the programme in Kisumu. He said residents of Kisumu, Nyeri, Isiolo and Machakos counties will enjoy free medical services during the piloting of the programme ahead of national rollout next year.
However, the ministry of Health said the UHC scheme will be insurance-based and not entirely free.
“The president has done a good thing by his political commitment but at the technical level, there is no direction on UHC. The president’s speech conflicts tax funding and insurance approach to the programme,” KMPDU secretary general Ouma Oluga said.
Oluga said more health workers must be employed to drive the rollout.
He said the programme should be used to test viable public-private partnerships in the provision of health services.
He said focusing on community health volunteers will make many people flock to hospitals.
“Demand for services will go up by 50 per cent, so efforts must be made to improve the number and quality of health workers. You will need more doctors and clinical officers to deliver the services,” Oluga said.
During the launch, Uhuru directed that the National Hospital Insurance Fund be restructured to support the programme. The directive means all publicly funded insurance pools will be collapsed into one.
Doctors supported the move. “So many counties that bought private schemes, parastatals and some civil servants must begin the discussion to collapse into one entity,” Oluga said.
Residents of the four piloting counties will use their UHC cards to access services. The services those of emergency, child health,maternal, mental, infectious disease management, non-communicable disease management, inpatient and outpatient and community health services.
Health CS Sicily Kariuki praised the president for prioritising the achievement of UHC, saying it will lead to transformation of Kenya by 2022.
UHC is one of Uhuru’s Big Four agenda that also includes food security, manufacturing and housing.
“Universal health coverage is essential in addressing our national challenges and will go a long way in achieving the core principle of the Vision 2030 agenda,” Sicily said.
The vision wants “no one is left behind” in terms of development.
World Health Organization boss Dr Tedros Adhanom pledged to support Kenya’s journey towards UHC, saying health lays the foundation for sustainable development.
The lessons learnt will inform countrywide scale up. Uhuru said the programme will be anchored in primary healthcare. Most the funds will go into strengthening dispensaries and health centres. He said the counties will be engaged in strengthening of health systems.
Uhuru said the government has focused on removal of user fees in hospitals since he took office in 2013. “Access to quality primary healthcare can address 80 per cent of ones health needs by focusing on preventative and promotive health interventions,” he said.