By Dickens Wasonga.
Kisumu County expects to ease the current heavy disease burden facing it during the implementation of the six months Universal Health Coverage pilot project set to be launched officially on Thursday next week by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The county which is piloting the UHC initiative , alongside three other counties of Machakos, Nyeri and Isiolo has been allocated sh 800 million by the national government to help in strengthening provision of quality health care to the residents , according to the county Executive Committee member for health Dr Rosemary Obara.
While briefing the media about the county’s preparedness on the project ahead of the official launch, the CEC revealed that a total of 230,000 households have been enrolled.
She revealed that the county has embarked aggressive door to door mop up campaign to ensure the remaining 10,000 households are registered before Thursday.
According to Obara, Kisumu targets to register 240,000 households during the UHC pilot phase.
Those enrolled into the project will be able to access quality free health care services in the 210 public health facilities in the county for the next six months.
The free medical care will also be delivered to the residents of the four counties where UHC is being experimented before it can be rolled out nationally if the results show it can work.
The CEC said was Kisumu was picked as a pilot area because it has one of the highest prevalence rates of the communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, cholera among other ailments which has reduced life expectancy in the county to 58 years.
According to Dr Obara, the disease burden has pushed many families in the county into poverty as households channel meager resources into health care financing which many can ill afford.
‘’Besides the communicable diseases, we are also witnessing rising cases of non communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular ailments such heart diseases , road traffic and gender based violence related injuries which the county heath management teams are struggling to cope up with ’’ said Obara.
According to the CEC, for every a thousand live births in Kisumu, seventy five deaths are recorded at infancy each year while four hundred and ninety five women, out of a hundred thousand pregnant women die annually while giving birth.
‘’ This is more than the national average where three hundred and sixty two cases are reported. Thirty per cent of people living in Kisumu are poor according to the current national economic report, meaning majority of our people can not afford health care services that they need. Poverty is brought about mainly by the huge disease burden that we have and when you are poor, you can not be food secure’’ she said.
Kisumu is using the UHC funding to scale up provision of health services in its 210 health facilities using the community health promotion strategy and has so far established 195 community units which will be manned by the community health workers.
‘’The CHWs have been trained to work professionally and we expect they will help us to archive our focus on health promotion targeting primary health care so as to prevent disease occurrence . People need to have information about their well being, good nutrition, taking care of themselves, and encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles ‘’ said Obara.
According to her, the county has put the CHWs on monthly stipend to help disseminate health messages like use of clean and safe water, promote universal hand washing and other hygiene practices.
They also, encourage expectant women to visit clinics so that pregnancy complications can be detected and managed early at the facilities.
The county also plans to sue money from the supplementary budget which was approved last week by the county assembly to procure seven ambulances which will be fixed with state of the art equipment to boost emergency response and referral systems.
Each of the established 195 community unit covers a sub location and the county targets to establish 250 units to avail services to the lowest levels in the community across the county during the pilot period, according to the CEC.
The money will also be used to buy equipment, drugs,improve infrastructure and hire additional staff on contract.
Obara said there was an acute shortage of nurses, doctors and clinical officers in the county adding that one doctor was currently serving forty-four thousand, six hundred and thirty four patients annually instead of the WHO recommended ratio of one doctor per one thousand patients.
‘’ The county is also doing badly in terms of patients where one nurse is serving two thousand ,three hundred and eighty three patients per year instead of the recommended WHO ratio of three nurses against one thousand patients’’ she said
Kisumu County has already bought 6 ultra sound machines for the county hospitals to help address pregnancy related complications and ensure smooth deliveries.
She said that seventy per cent of the county’s health budget goes into paying salaries, twenty one per cent is used to finance operations with just less than ten per cent going for purchase of equipment .