NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 – President Mwai Kibaki has urged non-government agencies to partner with the government in development of medical care affordable to majority of Kenyans.
President Kibaki was speaking when he officially inaugurated the Khanubhai Babla National Lion Eye Bank Building in Nairobi.
He said Public/ Private Partnership is critical in the development of medical services and remained the best way of mobilising scarce resources for effective overall health care system.
The Head of State regretted that the cost of specialised healthcare is unaffordable to many Kenyans who bear an estimated 40 percent of total health expenditure.
“To address this challenge, the Government has continued to consistently increase funding to the public health sector with a view to reducing the cost of health services,” the President said.
The government, President Kibaki said, has initiated reforms in the medical sector aimed at improving infrastructure, hospital financing, health systems, service delivery and accessible medical serves to all Kenyans.
To provide equitable and affordable health services to Kenyans, the Head of State noted, the government increased by 35 percent budgetary allocation to the health sector this financial year.
“In the current financial year, for example, the health sector was allocated Sh47 billion up from Sh34 billion in the previous financial year, which is an increase of 35 percent,” noted the President.
The Head of State affirmed that the government, with support of development partners is rehabilitating and equipping over twenty three District and Provincial Hospitals throughout the country while at the same time creating centers of excellence at all Provincial General Hospitals to make them effective Regional Referral Hospitals and help decongest the only two existing referral hospitals.
On prevention of and treatment of eye ailments among children, President Kibaki reassured Kenyans that the government was doing everything possible to ensure early detection of sight problems among the low income groups.
The President observed that the economic and social cost of blindness and other visual impairments is very high and called for urgent measures to increase access to eye treatment.
Eye diseases in Kenya, President Kibaki said, ranked eighth among the 10 leading causes of morbidity with the prevalence of blindness estimated at 0.7 percent which translates to over 250,000 blind people and 750,000 suffering from low vision.
“Most children in the low income communities live for years with undetected sight problems, and the consequences are often devastating. Some lose their eyesight, while many suffer irreversible damage,” regretted the Head of State.
President Kibaki noted with gratitude the collaborative efforts by the Lions Eye Hospital and the Barclays Bank of Kenya to support “Sight for Kids”, a program that provides vision screening and eye health education for children to combat this problem.
“I applaud the Lions Eye hospital for its Outreach Programme in which eye specialists visit the rural areas to screen the local people for eye ailments and to offer treatment,” he said.
President Kibaki also expressed appreciation to the Lions Eye Hospital for its commitment to provide healthcare services to the needy in line with the Government policy to facilitate access to health care by all Kenyans irrespective of their financial circumstances.
“Indeed, I am happy to note that the Lions Eye Hospital has grown to be the largest eye hospital in Kenya. Since its establishment in 1997, the hospital has attended to over 988,000 patients and done more than 50,000 cataract surgeries,” the President said.
He commended the Lions family for their commitment to the well being of the Kenyan people saying the Lions Club was among the first organisations to respond by way of raising funds to help procure foodstuffs for the people most affected by drought early this year when the Government declared it a national emergency and appealed for assistance.
“I take this opportunity to thank you for your generous contribution and to urge you to keep up the exemplary service you have continued to render to the people of Kenya. Establishment of this eye bank is yet another example of the Lions club support of our Medicare efforts. We thank you for the generous contribution to the welfare of Kenyans and humanity at large,” the President said.
He thanked Lion Kanubhai Babla for contributing US$1 million (Sh70 million) towards the project and for his immense generosity towards the establishment of the Lions Eye Hospital.
During the occasion President Kibaki paid tribute to Mr Babla for further committing to sponsor at least 1,000 eye cataract operations in the country.
In his address during the occasion, Medical Services Minister Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o expressed gratitude to President Kibaki for officially opening the exceptional health facility which had extended valuable services to Kenyans and inhabitants of the entire East African region.
Prof Nyong’o affirmed Government’s commitment in establishing medical centres of health in various parts of the country to save Kenyans the agony of travelling abroad to seek specialized treatment, especially kidney transplant, hip bone replacement and heart surgery, which could be offered locally at affordable rates.
The Medical Services minister further confirmed that the ministry was keen on establishing an eye unit in every district hospital in order to take care of preventable blindness through early interventions.
In partnership with the Ministry of Public Health, Prof Nyongo noted that elaborate measures had been instituted through increased immunization programmes to prevent blindness caused by measles and deficiency of Vitamin A.
Urging communities to drop superstitious practices, Prof Nyongo invited Kenyans to generously donate their corneas upon death in order to assist over 10,000 people in the country who are in need of cornea transplants to avert blindness.
The key donor to the project Kanubhai Babla termed the facility an initiative to supplement Government efforts to mitigate the suffering of blind people in the country.
Mr Babla expressed joy and fulfillment that his change of plan from establishing a financial bank to an eye bank had come to fruition and urged Kenyans to donate generously while alive and to spend their resources wisely.
He said, “Significant projects calls for good donors in order to make them a reality. There is joy in giving. Give back to the society and particularly to the needy.”
Others who spoke during the occasion were Past International President, Lion Dr Ashok Mehta and Chairman Board of Management of the Lions SightFirst Eye Hospital Dr. S.P. Amin.