The government intends to invest in more regional and national healthcare systems to facilitate easy and faster access to quality health care at the community level.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the COVID 19 pandemic had necessitated the shift in focus in the healthcare systems after the spread of the highly infectious disease exposed the fragility of even the most developed and powerful nations.
This, he noted, “has opened our eyes to the opportunities that will exist in a post-pandemic world”.
The CS was speaking at the Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital during a reception of GRUPPO SAN DONATO officials from Italy who are in Kenya for a series of meetings to explore areas of collaboration with the Government.
CS Kagwe said Kenya is committed to incorporating all stakeholders and every voice to intensify efforts to scale up healthcare.
He specifically noted that the visit by Gruppo San Donato has come at a time when the country has increased momentum towards transforming the available health care systems especially in the area of mental health
“Mental health has significant social and economic implications in terms of population well-being and productivity. It is thus a major public health priority that requires key strategic intervention for the attainment of our country’s social, health and economic targets,” Kagwe said.
The CS further explained that it is sad to note that mental health conditions remained a silent epidemic due to stigma, discrimination, reduced access to treatment and lack of psychosocial support.
This, he added, was compounded by increasing demands and expectations of life, poverty, unemployment, domestic conflicts, competitive lifestyles and efforts to achieve beyond our limits.
The situation, Kagwe noted, is further exacerbated by the adverse mental health impact due to COVID-19 pandemic.
“While a lot of gains have been made in the overall improvement of physical health status, the rising burden of mental ailments threaten to reverse these gains. This calls for strategic positioning of mental health in the country’s agenda and mobilization of resources to address these disparities,” he said
The CS said the visit by Gruppo San Donato follows a Health Investment Forum held in Milan Italy last year, where the ministry met with officials of the company with the aim of seeking ways of increasing investments to improve Kenya’s Healthcare systems.
A Taskforce on Mental Health report titled; Mental Health and Wellbeing; – toward Happiness and National Prosperity had clearly voiced citizens’ mental health concerns and associated daily life challenges and the urgency to address the matter as a public health emergency of an epidemic proportion.
Kenya Mental Health Action Plan 2021-2025 is also a commitment and a clarion call to all stakeholders to prioritize and invest in mental health for the next five years and beyond.
The Action Plan provides a roadmap for National and County Governments and all stakeholders to implement the Mental Health Policy and Taskforce Recommendations through strategic actions with specified targets and indicators.
To achieve the targets set by the plan, Kagwe said it required investments to bridge the huge gaps in the country’s mental health system as a result of many years of low financing of mental health.
“There are compelling reasons for increasing our investment in mental health and the public and private partnership will be an essential ingredient to the successful implementation of this plan. I am therefore pleased to welcome the group officials to Kenya, to further the discussions on increasing Healthcare hubs in Kenya and the region at large,” Kagwe said.
The CS said the officials of Gruppo San Donato, led by their Chairman Kamel Ghribi, were in the country with a view to explore avenues of collaboration in this sector and that on Thursday, they toured Mathare hospital and the proposed site of the new National Neuro Psychiatric Teaching and Referral Centre in Karen.
“From this visit, it is my hope that we shall move quickly towards the signing of an MoU to actualize our elaborate plans,” Kagwe said but noted that even as the conversations with Gruppo San Donato goes on, all stakeholders should join in exploring ways in which we could ‘increase our capacity for response to mental health service delivery challenges’.
By Wangari Ndirangu