Public hospitals and healthcare centers soon might be faced with shortage of drugs as county governments have failed to pay the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) about Sh2.4 billion.
This can result to paralyzed medical services as agency reels on debt whilst it urgently needs cash to purchase and supply medicine.
According to reports, the looming crisis in the health sector has caused the Senate Committee on Health to summon the Chairman of Council of Governors (CoG) Wycliffe Oparanya to explain why the counties administrations are delaying the payments.
Also summoned is Kemsa CEO Jonah Mwangi and Controller of Budget Agnes Odhiambo.
In a twist of events, the county governments have now turned to other suppliers for drugs as their debts still stand in Kemsa.
Counties that owe the agency millions of shillings include: Nairobi with Sh309.3 million, Kitui Sh200.8 million, Kilifi Sh125.5 million, Narok Sh104.6 million, Nakuru Sh98.3 million, Kisumu Sh77.5 million and Nandi Sh76.4 million.
Despite the Controller of Budget approving payments and the national government disbursing money to the county governments, Kemsa is yet to receive payments of medical supplies that is supposed to be paid 45 days after deliveries.
The chair of the health commitee Senator Michael Mbito of Trans Nzoia County has accused the county administrations of acting in bad faith against the agency in failing to settle their debt.
“The chair of CoG must come forward and shed light on why the counties, after receiving supplies on credit, are buying drugs from other suppliers yet they have not settled huge debts in Kemsa,” said Mr Mbito.
He further extended the pointing finger to Kemsa boss Jonah Mwangi, whom he accused of doing little to get the payments from the county governments.
“I can’t comprehend why the management of the agency is lazy in demanding for the payments as the healthcare sector is sailing on murky waters,” he said.
This comes after nurses in various counties went on strike for three weeks jeopardizing the healthcare services in many hospitals across the country.
The strike was declared illegal and suspended for 60 days by the industrial court after the CoG moved to the judicature to challenge the legality of the boycott.
However, the nurses through their body, Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), remained adamant to call off the strike until their demands were met by the county governments.
In recent developments, the striking nurses in some counties resumed duty after their regional leaders tabled agreements with their county governments.
See also: Another hard blow for striking nurses
It took interventions and threats from President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Controller of Budget to loosen the tight grip of the striking nurses over the service and uniform allowances.
The healthcare givers are demanding Sh10,000 and Sh15,000 allowance increment in service and uniform respectively that were awarded to them in 2017 by the CoG and the Ministry of Health in a return-to-work formula after a national strike.
The counties that have called off the strike include West Pokot, Tharaka Nithi, Busia, Narok, Embu, Bomet, Nairobi, Murang’a, Kisii and Kisumu.
Nonetheless, KNUN secretary General Seth Panyako is expected on court on Tuesday (tomorrow) over defying court orders.
Mr Panyako has maintained that the court did not instruct him to call off the strike, rather it ordered the nurses to return to work.
“The nurses strike that we have been witnessing were done at the county level, I informed the leaders at the regional of the court order, so if they disobey, what should I do?” he asked.
As the county governments strain to manage the healthcare sector that has been devolved with the entrance of 2010 constitution, poor Kenyans who cannot afford private healthcare services continue to anguish and die in unending distress of health system.