Universal Healthcare in Kenya: is it a pipedream? Will a partnership of public and private sector deliver the promise?
The private health sector leaders converged at Park Inn Hotel on 30thNovember for the Kenya Healthcare Federation annual health round up forum for 2017. A full house attendance included CEOs of hospitals, pharmaceutical firms, insurance and multinational firms, medical equipment, technology and telecommunication companies among other commercial entities that form the backbone of the private health sector in Kenya. Also present were officials from the County governments, Ministry of Health and Development Partners such as USAID, GIZ and World Bank/IFC.
At the event it was evident that this sector has been on a positive growth path over the last decade. However despite growth in demand as more people live longer, this economic system still faces critical challenges.
It is estimated that the health sector will create 178 million new jobs in Africa by 2030 (Ref; Better Business Better World – DAVOS 2016). Of these 28 million new jobs will be in Africa. The sector has outlined its roadmap and has highlighted that risk-pooling and telehealth will be the largest market hotspots in the next decade.
Out-of-pocket healthcare payments push around five percent of households in low-income countries below the poverty line each year. Since the poor pay a disproportionate share of their income in unavoidable health costs, lack of affordable health insurance is also inequitable. Increasing penetration of private, public-private and community insurance schemes can address this problem. As well as spreading health risks across communities, risk pooling often includes organized “contracting” functions that purchase health care on behalf of the individuals covered, which in turn encourages the development of higher-quality private sector providers.
Using sensors that read the vital signs of patients at home can alert nurses and doctors cost effectively to problems before they worsen. Emerging technologies include wearable patches that can diagnose heart conditions, sensors that monitor asthma medication intake and detect poor air quality, and glucose monitors that send diabetics’ data straight to their smartphones. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that remote monitoring could reduce the cost of treating chronic diseases in health systems by 10 to 20 percent by 2025.
Basic mobile internet technologies are already extending access to consultation and diagnosis to remote patients around the world. In Kenya we are well prepared to set up a robust Virtual Care Center that will provide telehealth services across counties and the key urban cities. A community health worker in remote areas will be assist for example an expectant mother through the “HealthAfya call” and help the patient carry out the doctor’s instructions. This kind of a system has helped raise the rate of safe hospital or clinic deliveries by 50 percent in several developing countries.
The private sector, through their Chairman was very clear on the support it will provide in moving towards a full universal health coverage as pledged by H.E Uhuru Kenyatta during his inauguration speech on 28th October in Nairobi. “The journey to achieve universal health coverage in Kenya is intertwined with economic growth. We have to first strengthen several areas within our the health system, both public and private, in order for us to reach full coverage” says Dr Amit N. Thakker “ The next phase will require us to find suitable financing models to expand the risk pooling mechanisms and avoid any monopolies being formed. This will then lead to foster a true PPP in healthcare financing and provision areas which is the only suitable option for Kenya to achieve UHC under the current circumstances” he adds.
Also present as the Chief Guest was Mr Nik Nesbitt, Chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). Mr Nesbitt provided a clear insight to on the role of KEPSA especially on the institutionalized structures on how to engage effectively with the Government.
“It’s very important for your companies and organisations to effectively voice your concerns and find solutions through KHF at the regular Ministerial Stakeholder forum (MSF).At this you get a chance to resolve matters that can be dealt with at the Ministry of Health level” he went on to add “should you find that the matter continues to affect your industry negatively, that’s when you escalate the matter to KEPSA for the Presidential Round Table (PRT) that is held twice a year”