The citizens of Elgeyo Marakwet can now breathe a sigh of relief following the introduction of free healthcare services in the region. In mid-January the heath sector in the county began an initiative to ensure that all communities in the area can access free healthcare services. Elgeyo Marakwet County is located in Rift Valley region, and borders Baringo County to the east and Uasin Gishu County to the west.
Previously, healthcare services were paid for, and this caused a big challenge to the citizens who could not afford to pay for medicine. Also, the people of Elgeyo Marakwet lacked sensitization in matters of healthcare. They could not predict symptoms of an ailment and this averted any preventive measure.
The region also suffered shortage of healthcare personnel who could attend to their needs and equally, the resources were scarce. This only served as a discouragement to those who were willing to get medical attention.
The mentioned challenges will soon become issues of the past because health environment in Kenya is changing and there is need for the existing systems to adapt to the changes so as to be effective.
In an interview, the Elgeyo Marakwet County Health Executive, Stephen R. Biwott sheds light on the gradual evolution in the health sector in his county.
Q: How has the devolved system impacted the health sector?
A: To begin with, healthcare is a fully devolved function. This means that resources and finances are distributed to every county to benefit its citizens.
In my county for example, we used a sum of KShs 21 Million in the month of January to purchase medicine for the people of Elgeyo Marakwet. This initiative will ensure that all citizens in my county receive medical attention, especially the marginalized communities. The medication is free of charge; therefore the only responsibility is to access a health facility. We have also put stringent measures to ensure that no health worker tries to dupe the community members by selling the medicine. If a health worker is caught in such misconduct, he or she will be arrested.
Q: Have you been able to measure the results of the initiative so far?
A: Yes we have.
Before coming to this program, I had attended a routine meeting, where we interacted with the citizens in the county, and we were able to identify the needs that have been met by the initiative. For instance, free medical care has reduced the financial strain on several families; they are able to channel the money for medication for other uses. In March we will carry out a full survey that will determine an accurate impact of the initiative.
Q: According to your responses, it is clear that the community is expected to come and get help if need be. But what measures have you put in place to reach them in their homes, especially those who have to walk a far distance to get to a health facility?
A: We have not reached the level of dispensing medication in peoples homes. We are focusing more on empowering the people of Elgeyo Marakwet to take care of their own health. Some of the measures we have taken include: training the community clinical officers as well as the citizens to identify symptoms of various illnesses and how to respond to them.
We are also thinking of a task-shift strategy whereby all services offered by health workers will be available at the community level through the dispensaries in each community.
It is a long term strategy but I am certain it will prove effective.
Q: Why did you choose to do the Leading High- Performing Healthcare Organizations program in Strathmore Business School (SBS)?
A: I learnt about the program prior to being a leader in the county level. There is need for the healthcare sector to be transformed especially now that we have a devolved governance system. As a participant of the program, I already have the clinical skills. SBS will enable me to have the conceptual; capacity to deliver quality healthcare.
Q: How has the experience been in this first module?
A: My mind has been opened and challenged to new ideas and concepts. The course has good facilitators who use both theoretical and practical approaches.
Also, the class has a great mix of participants, which provides an excellent networking platform. All of us are eager to learn from each other and equally, we are seeking ways to improve the lives of citizens in our respective counties and the entire country at large.
At the end of the day, individual transformation will translate to societal transformation.
In view of the healthcare challenges faced in the county levels and country at large, Strathmore Business School offers the Leading High- Performing Healthcare Organizations (LeHHO) program
. LeHHO has been offered since 2011 and has so far graduated one hundred and fourteen senior leaders in the health sector. Mr. Steven is in the fifth cohort of LeHHO. The LeHHO program was developed in collaboration with Management Sciences for Health ( MSH) under the Leadership Management and Sustainability project funded by United States Agency for International Development ( USAID).
The program is tailored for the healthcare leaders of our region and is geared towards improving healthcare delivery a key criterion of economic development. The face of healthcare is dynamic and more complex than ever, with technological innovations, new treatments, new laws & regulations, and new types of healthcare service delivery models. In addition to negotiating the day-to-day demands of a busy and complex organization, healthcare delivery leaders must also be able to evaluate and understand the impact of different healthcare delivery models and major service delivery programs in specific disease areas.