Kenya: Crisis in Nairobi County As Kemsa Withholds Drugs

16 September 2021

A health crisis is looming in Nairobi County with health centres and dispensaries running out of essential drugs since last week Friday.

This comes amid a row between Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) and Kenya Medical Supply Authority (Kemsa) over pending bills. Umoja I MCA Mark Mugambi said many city residents had raised concerns over the lack of medicine in health facilities.

Through a request for a statement at the county assembly, the MCA sought to know the reason for the drugs shortage.

"Residents are suffering as even Panadol, the cheapest of all, is not available. It is absurd. Why build more hospitals while the ones there have no medicine? It beats logic," said Mr Mugambi.

Private hospitals

He said patients are being forced to turn to private hospitals, which are expensive and beyond the reach of most residents.

"Poor Nairobians are now being forced to dig into their pockets to buy drugs. Those who cannot afford them have been left with no choice but to suffer," he said.

NMS Health Services Director Ouma Oluga admitted to the crisis, saying, health facilities began experiencing the challenge last Friday but assured residents that the issue will be sorted by Monday next week.

Temporary challenge

Dr Oluga explained that the problem is as a result of a temporary challenge with supplies because of Sh374.9 million Kemsa debt inherited from City Hall and the long period it has taken to verify the pending bills. Kemsa also wants the City Hall debt inherited by the Lieutenant General Mohamed Badi-led administration cleared as well.

"As NMS, we have paid all bills owed to Kemsa but they now insist that we must clear the previous bills too," he said.

Kemsa and City Hall have been at loggerheads over pending bills with the State agency on several occasions cutting medical supplies to the county government's hospitals over debts owed to it.

In 2017, Kemsa stopped supplying drugs to county hospitals over a Sh285 million debt, forcing patients to buy drugs and other medical supplies from private hospitals and chemists.

It took the intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki for Kemsa to resume supplies.

Private suppliers

But things again went south and in March 2019, City Hall said it was considering engaging private suppliers to stock its health centres over the constant row with Kemsa over the debts which at the time had accumulated to Sh300 million. In May 2020, Kemsa suspended supplies to the county government.

In October 2020, City Hall paid Sh66.93 million to the agency and another Sh166.93 million.

In May this year, the county assembly, through a supplementary budget, allocated Sh374.9 million to clear outstanding debt owed to Kemsa.

However, Budget and Appropriation Committee Chairperson Robert Mbatia said they are still to get any documentation from the Ann Kananu-led administration showing how the allocation was used.

"We were just told verbally that the money was paid to Kemsa. We requested for the documents showing payments but up to date nothing has been forwarded to the assembly," he said.


Consequently, the assembly's Health Committee has been tasked with inquiring on timelines within which medical supplies shall be available in all county health centres and dispensaries to cater for the increasing demand.

Further, the committee should report on reasons why the county's health centres and dispensaries are unable to get medical supplies as well as how the administration has planned its ordering procedures including any necessary adjustments made to ensure adequate stocks of essential drugs are supplied or sourced by Kemsa and other agencies respectively as stipulated by relevant policy framework.

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 100 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.