Narok, Murang'a and Nairobi counties have been barred from drugs from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) for non payment as four other counties stop seeking drugs from the agency.
Data from Kemsa reveals that Nairobi, which has a debt of Sh284 million, Murang'a (Sh21 million) and Narok (Sh104.5 million) have been denied fresh supplies over the past three months because of the unpaid bills.
The drugs agency says Kwale, Kericho, Kilifi and Makueni counties have not ordered fresh drugs from Kemsa in the three months.
This signals pain to the residents of seven counties who had relied on low cost state hospitals for medicine.
Kemsa chief executive Jonah Manjari says the counties in debt had breached repayment agreements that demanded partial clearance of the bills as a condition to reopen supplies.
Nairobi had committed to pay Sh30 million monthly while Murang'a promised to pay Sh5 million monthly until their debt was cleared.
"Some say they have not been given funds by the Treasury to sort the matter while others like Narok maintain that this is old debt which they have to authenticate yet nothing has been forthcoming," he said.
Counties tapped for state driven universal health coverage (UHC) plan have been spared from the blockade because the national government is making direct payments to Kemsa for medicine.
Nyeri, Kisumu Machakos and Isiolo were in December selected for the pilot phase of the universal health coverage--whose residents receive affordable healthcare by paying little to nothing for certain services.
Nyeri has a clean book, but Kisumu, Machakos and Isiolo owe Kemsa Sh77 million, Sh34 million and Sh2.3 million respectively.
Dr Manjari said the three counties with debts, but selected for the UHC pilot, receive supplies from Kemsa within seven days despite the unpaid bills
"Under the UHC the money is sent to us directly from the Ministry of Health and so the counties are not using their money and are not paying their debt either," he said.
The medical agency has sought help from Senate to recover a total of Sh2.3 billion debts from various counties after efforts to recover the debt through intervention of Council of Governors, the Treasury and the Controller of Budget bore no fruit.