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CS, lobby call for lower UHC services cost

George Kebaso @Morarak

The cost of healthcare could drop significantly if the government scrapped the tax on oxygen used in hospitals and supplements for pregnant mothers.

Health Cabinet secretary Sicily Kariuki yesterday said there is no need to pay for anaesthesia and hematinics such as iron and folic acid.

Kenya Healthcare Federation (KHF) members, who met the CS yesterday, said if the issues are addressed soon through harmonising tax regimes on the items, implementation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) would be achieved faster.

Kariuki reiterated the government’s commitment to realising President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda on UHC, adding that programme rollout will require public-private collaboration to ensure delivery of quality health services.

The pilot UHC programme will involve the strengthening of the Public Health system, with a strategic focus on primary health care approach.

“It will involve the provision of quality health services by ensuring availability of essential health commodities and the strengthening of community health strategy,” she said.

KHF chairman Amit Thakker pledged to support and collaborate with the Health ministry to ensure the successful roll-out of the pilot UHC programme.

He said the Value Added Tax (VAT) on many items makes the cost of healthcare service at private facilities beyond the reach of poor Kenyans.

“We have embraced the new vision around the provision of health care services in the country, especially on the delivery of UHC to Kenyans by the government, but if unnecessary taxes on essential commodities remains, the cost of access will remain high. For instance, VAT on oxygen stocked in hospitals is charged similarly to the industrial one,” he said.

Elizabeth Ominde, a KHF member and Chronic Drugs Medical Scheme (CDMS) medical director said the private sector is usually labelled as unaffordable but it is important to address the real obstacles.

“Let us remunerate and build the capacity of our community health volunteers to reduce the frequency of curative costs by promoting preventive service delivery at the primary health care level,” she added.

KFH agreed it plays a key role in ensuring drugs supplied by the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) meet quality and affordability standards.

 

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