EDITORIAL: A laudable move by counties on health

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Provision of quality healthcare remains one of the major challenges of our times. Healthcare providers are perennially concerned about financing, staffing, and service delivery. The Constitution recognises access to quality and affordable health as a basic right. Cognizant of this, it has devolved healthcare to the counties with the express objective of enhancing quality and access to a cross-section of the population.

However, transferring this role to the regions has come at a cost. The recent doctors’ strike that went on for three months vividly exposed the gaps in healthcare management at the national and county levels. It was evident that shifting of the functions from the national to counties was not properly planned. Counties, still in infancy, had not developed systems and structures to handle health issues and manage medical practitioners. Funding was also not commensurate with the services to be provided.

Against this background, a healthcare conference that opens on Thursday in Kisii, bringing together representatives of all the counties in the Lake Victoria region, is a remarkable step in seeking solutions to the teething problems assailing the devolving units as they take up their rightful role in medical care management. Generally, challenges such as the prevalence of certain diseases are pervasive and cut across regions of similar climatic and geographical conditions. For example, malaria is prevalent in the lake region. In this context, it makes much sense to take a common approach like sharing information and resources to containing it.

Counties are at different stages of developing facilities, with some already boasting of referral hospitals or having high-end diagnostic equipment for diseases such as cancer. Instead of having patients travel all the way to the Kenyatta National Hospital or Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, which were historically developed to be university-teaching hospitals, such cases can be handled in neighbouring counties at half the cost. Collaboration, partnership and resource sharing among neighbouring counties are the way to go if we are to guarantee access to quality and affordable medical care for all.

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