11 February 2004

Kenya: Free Healthcare Set for July

Nairobi — A new scheme to pay hospital bills for all Kenyans will take effect on July 1, Health minister Charity Ngilu revealed yesterday.

Ngilu said membership to the National Social Health Insurance Fund will be compulsory and free for poor Kenyans.

Unlike in the past when medical cover was only available to people in formal employment, unemployed Kenyans and those in the Jua kali (informal) sector will now benefit, Ngilu said.

The fund, which will cater for both in and out-patient, will enable the Government to provide anti-retroviral drugs to Aids patients, who Ngilu said occupy half of hospital beds in the country.

She said the Government was fine-tuning plans for the fund's implementation. More than 90 per cent of Kenyans lack a comprehensive health cover, while 25 per cent do not seek medical care due to lack of funds.

"The President said Kenya should turn into a working nation. We cannot have a working nation when people are sick," Ngilu said.

Ngilu was speaking at a workshop for permanent secretaries and chief executives of parastatals in Nairobi yesterday.

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