DR CHRIS KIRUBI
I have always said that a healthy people/nation contributes to a healthy economy but it puzzles me that many of our leaders don’t see it that way. Instead they look at the health sector as an avenue to their ‘get rich’ mentality depriving the common ‘mwananchi’ of quality medical services and facilities.
As a country we have been faced with many challenges as pertains to health. Our unborn children and their mothers need quality health, the health centres in the rural areas need better facilities and equipment, the country needs more equipment to handle the cases of rising lifestyle diseases among many other needs.
Just the other day I had the opportunity to visit Ngeca Health Centre within Kiambu County to unveil an electrification project I had financed. The Deputy Governor and his wife had been trying to raise funds in order to improve the facilities within the health centre and I commend them for that. It’s amazing the things you learn and see when you take time to visit the rural parts of this country. Welcomed by the warm presence of the elderly, I could not help but notice the hope and faith most of them had in the government to do better for them. That regardless of all that was happening (security, political wrangling, traffic jams, Obama’s scheduled visit) they were hopeful to the continuous development of this country and the county they live in.
I really sympathized with them as I saw the conditions they were subjected to in the health centre wondering if my contribution was indeed enough. It is impossible to imagine a health centre without electricity; I mean how would they function? But it’s unfortunate to learn that this is the situation in many counties leaving me to wonder whose responsibility it is to ensure that all our health centres are well equipped and functional.
Just this week, the Cabinet Secretary of health, James Macharia appeared before the National Assembly’s Health Committee to discuss the poor situation of hospitals within the county. According to the Constitution, health services were devolved to the Central Government with the exception of referral hospitals and policy issues. So why is it that the Central Government is lagging behind? Are there too many rules, regulations and policies by the National Government inhibiting this development within the counties? Who is to keep the Central Government in check on such issues and make sure our doctors and nurses do their jobs?
It is my hope that the Health Bill of 2015 will tackle these issues and make sure the Central Governments are accountable for quality service delivery at the different health facilities in the counties.
The elderly for example, cannot continue dying for lack of proper health services yet they are the ones who brought us up and made sure we have a future. Our women need quality maternal care and you see many of them risk their lives giving birth at home because they do not believe clinics have the best treatment for them and their babies. We all have a role to play.
The National and Central Governments cannot afford to work alone if they want to improve the quality of medical support within Kenya. They need to partner with the Private Sector, Civil Society, Financial Institutions, missionaries and various well-wishers. Let these investors be encouraged to invest on tax rebate purposes so that we can build health centres for our population that is crying for better attention to their ailments.
The most important thing in life is life itself. If we need a Marshall Plan where those able to pay a certain tax do so, so that we can give the elderly and underprivileged better healthcare in this country, then so be it Mr President.
It is rather unfortunate that the NHIF and NSSF schemes that collect millions of shillings to assist Kenyans rarely do so. Instead we have funds that mismanage resources. If banks and investments like Equity, KCB, Cooperative and others, handle such a huge population yet they provide more solutions than these funds then it’s time we thought of restructuring them. We need a framework that works to manage these resources that way we don’t have to increase taxes paid.
Equally, pension fund contributions can go a long way in assisting those retired if at all they are managed commercially (for profit). Why should small contributions to develop our local banks create such a huge amount of wealth for investors, while our contributions to our retirement funds have very little to show for? Our weakness is in the management system and structure. Mr. President, can we borrow a leaf from the way banks create wealth and do the same for our funds that play a key role in the development and sustainability of our people?
A nation is judged by how it takes care of their ageing population. Most of them do not have pension or children to support them because they are jobless. The older generation fought for this country and the only pension they thought of was that of having a free country to live in for their sons and daughters. Don’t we owe it to them to give back and take care of them or are we of the thought that they have lived their lives and it’s time they created space for the next generation?
Central Governments, come up with projects that will focus on this group of people that will be articulated and audited county by county. You lose nothing by allocating funds to these people in need of constant medical checkups and medicine.
Overall, let’s focus on preventive measures and not wait for a crisis so that we begin looking for solutions. If we boost all our health facilities and ensure better healthcare in all our counties then we will be raising a healthy country ready to spearhead development. Good health does not come cheap; but if we all played our significant roles then we will make significant progress in providing better healthcare for the people of Kenya.
A healthy people results to a healthy nation; and what can you do with a healthy nation? You decide!