Kenya: Taita Assembly Approves Free Healthcare for Elderly

The elderly in Taita Taveta County are a lucky lot after the assembly passed a motion to allow them access to free medical care in public hospitals in the county.

Members of the Taita Taveta County Assembly (MCAs) passed the law that compels the executive to exempt residents aged 65 years and above from paying for treatment.

The programme was initiated by the last administration but was halted in 2018 by the current county government.

Among the reasons that made the programme stop were loopholes that made non-residents take advantage of the free services.

Mwatate MCA Abednego Mwanjala, who tabled the motion, said the programme will be implemented through the Taita Taveta County Health Services Act, 2021 that seeks to provide free medical care to the group.

The programme will only target residents from within the county to avoid those from other regions flocking public health facilities in the area for free medical care.

MCA Mwanjala said there was the need to give the elderly in the county free treatment since some of them are poor, and cannot afford to pay for the services.

"Some of them are very needy and are unable to afford their treatment. As a county that loves its people, we need to support them, by allowing them to access free treatment in all our health facilities," he said.

Speaking in support of the motion, Wumingu/Kishushe MCA Newton Kifuso noted that the cost of living had gone up thereby affecting the poor and vulnerable in the society.

Mr Kifuso said some families lack the capacity to care for their old parent's medical bills and needs due to high poverty levels in the area.

"Some of the elderly people do not have families to cater for their day to day needs. Some have been neglected by their families. This means that they cannot access treatment and pay for it," he said.

The MCA said due to their age, older people face a significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract Covid-19 disease hence the need to assure them of proper care when they fall sick.

The MCAs noted that the older persons cash transfer programme by the national government has not benefited a majority of residents that fall in that category hence the need to cover them medically.

"The cash transfer program was done selectively thus leaving out most of our elderly people in the county," said Ms Lilian Kidali, a nominated MCA.

County executive for Health John Mwakima said the department is currently working on regulations for the programme.

He said the department had stopped the programme due to lack of a well-knitted implementation structure and unclear regulations.

The CEC said the programme was putting unsustainable pressure on health facilities in the county.

"The county budget should target mainly the locals just like other counties taking care of their residents in a special way. But due to the loopholes, we used to give free treatment to non-residents, thereby putting pressure on our facilities," he said.

He said the number of targeted people will be informed by an ongoing mapping exercise which has already kicked off.

"The ongoing mapping exercise will give us a clear picture of how many people will benefit for us to budget accordingly. The programme will be implemented through a law which was passed recently," he said.

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