A directive by the national government that all medical supplies be procured exclusively from the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) is likely to affect service delivery at hospitals managed by counties.
This is according to Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok, who told Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki that the matter is so serious that services in specialised areas such as renal units could grind to a halt if the directive is not reviewed.
"The directive has put counties in a very awkward dilemma. As is the case with the leased medical equipment, some re-agents are specifically sourced from the dealers who supplied them," said Dr Barchok.
"In the dialysis unit, five re-agents are from a supplier that is not Kemsa. As per the existing arrangement and the memorandum of understanding by the national government, counties and the supplier, we cannot source for re-agents from another supplier."
The governor spoke on Monday at Longisa County Referral Hospital where Ms Kariuki opened a regional cancer centre co-funded by the national and county governments, in honour of Governor Joyce Laboso who died of colon cancer on July 29.
"Our concern is that the directive has come with a rider - that should we fail to procure the drugs from Kemsa, those procuring them will be slapped with a fine and a jail term," he noted.
"Much as I do not want my people (patients) to suffer, we will be forced to shut down some units and halt provision of specialised services if the policy is not reviewed. We should be given room to wiggle out of this situation and save lives."
Ms Kariuki said the directive resulted from the realisation that some of the re-agents being bought and used in some health facilities, especially ones managed by counties, were substandard.
"Sadly, some counties were buying substandard drugs and equipment which endangered patient's lives. The national government had to take charge and give directives on this very sensitive matter so as to safeguard integrity and quality," she said.
The CS further said the national government would not retreat on the matter but that governors would be given a window to buy particular drugs from other suppliers.
Regarding the cancer centre, Ms Kariuki that patients from Bomet, Narok, Kericho, Nakuru and Nyamira counties will be treated and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) and Kenya National Hospital decongested.
"Radiotherapy equipment will have been installed at the MTRH by January next year as part of the expansion and decentralisation of health services," she said.
It was revealed that since the facility was opened last Friday, 29 patients had been attended to.
Dr Joseph Sitonik, the County Executive in charge of Medical Services and Public Health, said a number of medical staff including an oncologist, clinical officers, nurses, pharmacy technicians had been trained while others were undergoing training at MTRH.
Bomet Senator Christopher Langat, Bomet East member of Parliament Beatrice Kones and Baringo Woman Representative Gladwel Cheruiyot attended the function.