NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 20 – The Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya has urged the government to address the lack of sufficient personnel in public hospitals to efficiently cater for women and children.
Federation Chairperson Ruth Aura on Monday said that although President Uhuru Kenyatta declared free maternal care in public hospitals, resources have remained inadequate presenting an impediment to the sustainability of the government policy.
“We firmly believe that this troubling trend can be attributed to several factors including but not limited to hospital negligence, lack of sufficient human resources and deficient budgetary allocation of funds to government hospitals leading to inadequate facilities, drugs and equipment,” she said.
“As a consequence, the number of preventable maternal deaths in Kenya has increasingly risen and achieving the Millennium Development Goal on health remains a challenge lest it is properly addressed,” Aura added.
She explained that the current situation is in violation of the woman’s constitutional rights to health care.
“These deaths are outright violation of our women’s right to life and their constitutional entitlement to the highest attainable standard of reproductive health as guaranteed under Articles 26(1) and 43(1)(a)respectively. The resultant deaths are additionally a failure on the part of the government to protect, promote and fulfil its obligations as enshrined in the Constitution,” she added.
In a statement, the federation boss added that they were deeply alarmed at the increasingly troubling trend of maternal deaths sighting a recent case where three women and six infants died at the Siaya Referral Hospital due to the looming blood shortage in the hospital.
Also noted was the death of an infant allegedly delivered on the floor at the Nyeri Provincial Hospital which has since been attributed to shortage of staff and hospital negligence.
Overall they demanded that the government must establish a health system that is responsive to maternal, newborn and child health; based on principles of equity, efficiency, sound governance, internationally recognised service delivery guidelines and standards, respectful care, community engagement, evidence-based research and advocacy.
President Kenyatta in June waived maternity fees charged in all public hospitals beginning June 1.
He explained that the waiver would help expectant mothers to access maternal care at no cost and would also help reduce maternal deaths.
“My government has made adequate budgetary arrangements to enable all pregnant mothers to access free maternal services in all public facilities with effect from June 1, 2013,” he said.
“I direct that no charges shall be charged by all government institutions to access maternity services.”
Kenyatta also waived the user costs charged at government clinics before patients can access medical services.
He said that the Sh10 and Sh20 charged in dispensaries and health centres had been lifted effective June 1 last year.
“These measures are expected to increase access to primary health care in government health centres and dispensaries by all Kenyans,” he explained.
But even as Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto promised to provide free maternal care as well as increase the access to cheap affordable health care for Kenyans, they have been urged to ensure that government facilities have the necessary equipment and staff to handle their pledge.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union has particularly taken the Jubilee government to task over the estimated budgetary allocation to the health sector.
The union’s Secretary General Sultani Matendechero said that the budgetary allocation to health must be pegged at 15 percent of the total budget if the Jubilee government is to accomplish its pledge.
He said that under-funding the sector would have serious repercussions on maternity services and access to cheap healthcare.