, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 – Seventy per cent of women in the country now utilise maternity services in public health facilities, an increase from 44pc in 2012/13, thanks to the free maternal care program provided by the government.
In a statement by the Ministry of Health, marginalised regions especially, have seen an increase in mothers seeking qualified personnel during delivery with Turkana County leading at 78pc, followed by Tana River 76pc, Marsabit 75pc, and Isiolo at 70pc.
“The first year of implementation was marked by a sharp increase in deliveries conducted in public health facilities; from 461,995 deliveries in 2012/13 to 627,487 deliveries in 2013/14, a 35 per cent increase. Subsequently, the number of deliveries in public health facilities has continued to increase.”
“Prior to the implementation of the free maternity services, mothers in marginalised areas were dependent on traditional birth attendants to deliver their babies, but this has since changed since the government launched the free health maternity programme,” stated the report.
Major towns have however recorded minimal growth with the number of women seeking qualified personnel during delivery. Nairobi stands at 39pc, Kisumu 42pc, Mombasa 41pc and Nakuru 34pc.
“There are more hospitals in major towns as opposed to marginalised areas thus the dwellers have the opportunity to attain qualified personnel during delivery. This explains the gradual growth recorded in major towns.”
Maternal deaths and infant mortality rates have also fallen down to 39 per cent in infant deaths per 1,000 live births as a result of the improved healthcare which is essential to achievement of vision 2030 and Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“As it is acknowledged access to skilled delivery will directly contribute to reducing maternal and prenatal mortality and morbidity.”
Last month the Ministry of Health integrated Ante Natal Care (ANC) and Post Natal Care (PNC) into the free maternal care program to see to it that any complications arising before and during pregnancy is taken care of for at least one year including the infant.
The National Hospital Insurance Fund has been tasked with paying for the ANC and PNC services which will also be offered by Faith Based organizations (FBO) as well as Low Cost Private hospitals (LCPH).
“We decided to integrate the FBO’s and LCPH’s to the free maternal care program so that even those in marginalized regions can as well have access to these services. With these we expect the number of women accessing the free maternal care to increase and a reduction of mother child mortality.”
Before the launch of the Free Maternity Care Programme, only 40 per cent of women were delivering in health facilities, a trend that has changed and the number of deliveries now stands at 2,977,046 with the Ministry of Health targeting to hit the 80pc mark in the number of women who will access skilled medical care by end of this year.
Though the health sector has significantly improved, industrial actions due to salary disputes remain a major challenge.
A random sample from the members of the public showed that though majority applaud the government for the free maternal care program, they felt that industrial actions due to salary disputes remain a major challenge.
“The free services cannot be of impact if nurses continuously go on strike over unpaid dues and working environment. The government and the nurses union have to dialogue to end once and for all,” said Wakesho, who has fallen victim to the current ongoing nurses’ strike.
Nurses have been on strike for two months now, vowing not to resume duties until the signing and implementation of their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) by the Council of Governors and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
The industrial action which kicked off on June 5 has paralysed operations in public health facilities, leading to the deaths of tens of people in different parts of the country.