Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Health care as a campaign issue this year

Sunday Nation 08 January 2012

In typical Kenyan fashion, this late into the election season, no political party or presidential candidate has come out with a coherent governance strategy for the next government should they win political power. In an ideal situation, political parties and candidates would by this time have clear positions on key areas of the economy, including employment, education, taxation, infrastructure, security and health. Elections would be won or lost on policy issues, rather than the language spoken in a candidate’s home.

Our Constitution has attempted to cure this malady that afflicts our entire body politic, but because the players remain largely unchanged, key provisions risk being ignored or violated outright. As long as the citizen remains quiet and plays along with the political games of musical chairs, little is set to change.

By this time in the campaign, all candidates should have in place teams that will handle every aspect of their campaigns. They should have experts directing key campaign policy areas, with the expectation that should they win, the experts would take on the roles of Cabinet secretaries and other key policy positions in the new government.

Voters will then have adequate time to scrutinise the candidates, their potential Cabinet secretaries, and their policies in different areas of national life. These teams should in fact be the determining factor as far as the fate of the candidate is concerned.

Since no candidate has as yet come up with a health blueprint for Kenya, today I will take the liberty of suggesting some campaign issues in this area.

It is no secret that our health care system is in crisis. Despite attempts at reform over the past 20 years or so, inadequate funding and lack of political will have conspired to ensure progress is painfully slow and hard fought. A dramatic demonstration of this crisis is the fact that the portion of the budget allocated to the health sector has been shrinking progressively in recent years, and currently hovers at around 5 per cent of the national budget.

A health campaign platform should focus on making the following commitments.

Firstly, the entrenchment of a Health Service Commission in the Constitution is necessary to have a more orderly management of the human resources for health. A possible constitutional amendment Bill has already been drafted, and all the candidate needs to do is pick this and run with it in order to gain the support of Kenyans who care about their health.

Secondly, candidates must commit to increase government health expenditure to at least 15 per cent of the national expenditure to finance the necessary reforms in the sector. This was in fact agreed upon by our government years ago in Abuja, but has never been implemented.

Thirdly, they must commit to establish and properly equip and staff 47 county referral hospitals across the country, to more effectively offer services to all Kenyans in an equitable fashion as demanded by our Constitution. These hospitals will be the benchmarks against which facilities higher up or farther down the referral chain will be measured in terms of funding, staffing and equipment.

These commitments have the potential to positively change the lives of all Kenyans. Are our politicians willing to discard old tribal habits and take on issue-based politics this year? Only time will tell.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association and lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine www.lukoyeatwoli.com

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say something about this post!