Kenya: Parliament Directs NHIF to Set Aside Sh6 Billion for Covid-19 Bills

Interfaith Council on the National Response to Coronavirus Pandemic member Joseph Mutiso addresses the media at Ufugamano House in Nairobi on November 26.
26 November 2020

MPs have directed the national insurer to establish a Sh6 billion fund to meet treatment costs for all Covid-19 patients.

They have also ordered the government to pay doctors new allowances.

The National Assembly's Health Committee asked the national government to provide Sh6 billion to National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to cover citizens for the next six months.

The National Treasury, Ministry of Health, Council of Governors and NHIF were tasked to work out the modalities of implementing the directive.

Medics hired on contractual terms, previously not insured, will also get enhanced medical insurance covers. NHIF chief executive Peter Kamunyu confirmed to the committee that they would begin enjoying the cover as from October 1

MPs also want medics' demand for payment of call allowances --which doctors in public universities such as Kenyatta University have not been paid -- and improved risk allowances honoured.

The Ministry of Health was also directed to distribute Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) lying in Kenyan Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) stores to all public institutions and procure and distribute reusable face masks worth Sh300 million to the vulnerable within 14 days.

Harshly criticised

This was revealed during the Committee's meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), the NHIF, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists' Union (KMPDU) and vice chancellors from various universities.

The Council of Governors was not represented. Kenyatta University VC Paul Wainaina said health workers at the university did not qualify for the call allowance: "We have no in-patient services in our clinics so the doctors do not deserve it."

It was a statement that KMPDU chairman Samuel Oroko criticised harshly, saying the money for the call allowance was already released to the university by the SRC and needed to be paid: "What is the university doing with the money given for doctors by the government?"

It was also good news to the doctors who were dismissed in Kirinyaga and Laikipia counties following their strikes last year, after the committee ordered for their immediate reinstatement.

It was revealed that 19 counties have not yet insured their doctors with the NHIF despite the fact that the National Assembly provided the Ministry of Health with Sh500 million for the purpose in April under the Supplementary Estimates II.

The NHIF boss however said the money never got to their coffers.

Hiring doctors

Surprisingly, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman revealed that the Sh500 million allocated to the ministry was returned to the National Treasury as there was no proper framework for using it.

The National Treasury was ordered to release the amount and the Ministry of Health and the Council of Governors told to ensure that the 19 counties were covered immediately.

Moi University VC Isaac Kosgey confirmed receipt of Sh306 million for the payment of all medical staff since 2017 , but said only 60 percent of it was paid.

University of Nairobi Deputy VC in charge of Finance, Planning and Development Jesang Hutchinson said that the university had dealt with majority of their doctor lecturers' issues and would deal with the remaining bits amicably.

SRC vice chair Dalmas Otieno urged the Ministry of Health to be transparent in its dealings with KMPDU. KMPDU Secretary General Chibanzi Mwachonda, urged the government to employ at least 2,000 new doctors.

The Ministry of Health and the Council of Governors were ordered to develop a framework of hiring doctors and provide a report of the number doctors employed in the last 5 years.

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