By Geoffrey Kamadi
The national budget of KSH 1,459 trillion for the financial year 2012/ 2013 has been described variously as the country’s most ambitious yet.
And it was designed to deepen our economic and social prosperity within a system of devolved government, according to this year’s theme.
But revelations in mid May by the health cabinet secretary Professor James Macharia, show that The Treasury had allocated less than a quarter of funds his ministry was seeking.
The ministry had been allocated only KSH 34.7 billion, against KSH 160 billion it was asking.
This could only mean that “deepening our economic and social prosperity” will remain an elusive objective if not something of a pipe dream in itself.
After all, for a country to thrive economically and prosper socially, her people’s physical and mental wellbeing has to be guaranteed.
And there is no better way to achieve this than by expanding and improving the quality of healthcare services and infrastructure through increased financial support for the Ministry of Health.
It will be remembered that provision of affordable healthcare to all, was one of the outstanding issues raised in the presidential debates prior to the elections.
Political parties went to great lengths to articulate how provision of healthcare to all will be achieved under their administrations, should the electorate give them the mandate.
Dr Boniface Chitayi, Secretary of Health Affairs for The National Alliance (TNA) told journalists just before the elections that the Jubilee government will guarantee fully equipped health centres within a 5km radius of every family.
He was explaining the party’s manifesto at a roundtable discussion appropriately themed: The Politics of Health at Internews offices.
Dr Chitayi told journalists that the Jubilee government increase financial allocation to health to get to 12 per cent in the first five years.
This will gradually be increased to the targeted 15 per cent, in accordance with the Abuja Declaration of 2001.
Under the current budget, the health sector received KSH 85 billion, translating to 5.8 per cent of the national budget. This is not even half of what the Abuja Declaration requires.
As much as it is difficult to see how the country will attain this goal if the Ministry of Health is not getting the financial support it needs, it will be virtually impossible for the Jubilee government to fulfil promises it made to Kenyans.
According to Dr Chitayi, the Jubilee government planned to add an impressive 55 referral hospitals on top of the existing eight all over the country. It therefore begs the question: where is the money going to come from?
Kenya is not only suffering from a severe lack of doctors, but its training capacity to acceptable World Health Organisation (WHO) standards and therefore somewhat keep up with the ever rising demand, is grossly wanting.
Only about 200-360 doctors are trained by the Kenyan universities every year. Experts in the sector say that it would cost approximately KSH 4.2 million to train a single doctor.
Kenya has 1 doctor for a population of 8,000, way below the minimum WHO figure of 1 doctor/ 1,000.
In other words, the doctor-population ratio is up to eight times less ideal than the minimum standards set by the WHO.
The total number of doctors in the country is 5,000. It means that we need 35,000 more doctors to get to the 40,000 mark commensurate with the minimum WHO requirements.
Ultimately, the country will have to cough up a whopping KSH 147 billion for training doctors alone! This amount surpasses the entire budget allocated for health by a cool KSH 62 billion, a difference nearly equalling the amount given to the Ministry of Internal Security of KSH 65.9 billion.
Unless the manifesto presented by the Jubilee coalition was nothing more than high sounding pronouncements, it will be a herculean task to find monies required to train doctors, leave a lone building a single health facility.(This article was first published on the Daily Nation on June 5, 2013)
Geoffrey Kamadi is a consultant with Media 101 Communications, specializing in science and development reporting:
Connect with the writer on Twitter: @gkamadi