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Governors opposed to extension of MES project

The Council of Governors (CoG) is opposed to plans to extend the Sh43.5 billion medical equipment leasing projects often termed as the Managed Equipment Services (MES) at the counties.

MES was procured in 2015 by the Ministry of Health on behalf of the 47 devolved units to supply and equip two hospitals in every county with high-tech machines to manage chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes.

The contract entailed leasing of assorted medical equipment for renal, laboratory, ICU, radiology and theatre to at least two hospitals in each of the 47 counties for a seven-year period.

Installation of the state-of-the-art equipment and training of technical staff was also included in the contract.

COG Health Committee Chair Muthomi Njuki said there was urgent need to review the conditions set out by the county chiefs before renewal of the controversial contracts by the national government.

Njuki who is also the Tharaka Nithi Governor says they will resist efforts by the Ministry of Health to have the contracts of the project extended for three more years without the approval of the CoG.

Governor Njuki says the MES contract was a seven-year project with the possibility of a three-year extension period.

Njuki says the managed equipment services project has been shrouded in mystery right from inception and called on the Kenya Kwanza administration to review the whole process to ensure that taxpayers get value for their money.

He was speaking to the press at Swahili Beach Resort in Diani Kwale County during a retreat for the CoG health committee members themed ‘Stepping up stakeholders’ engagement for accelerated universal health coverage’.

The meeting brought together representatives of key stakeholders and partners including the Ministry of Health (MoH) led by the Cabinet Secretary (CS) Susan Wafula.

Njuki said the sessions at the retreat focused on appraising the committee on the status of implementation of key health sector policies and legislations including the emerging bottlenecks and interventions for the same.

He said the meeting provided a deeper understanding of the committee’s health sector governance structures and systems in both the National and County Governments for effective engagement both at the intergovernmental level and with non-state actors.

“It would have been wise to give the counties the resources and the leeway to purchase the equipment instead of leasing them in the first place,” said Njuki.

He also said that in some instances the devolved units were paying for assorted specialised medical equipment that was not confirmed to have been delivered.

“And where they were delivered, nobody bothered to know the specific needs of the devolved units and that the equipment was indiscriminately offloaded,” he said.

“All the counties regardless of how big or small they are were made to pay Sh200 million per annum for the equipment despite some lying idle and unused which is not fair,” he noted.

He says if the MES project extension that is being sought is approved, the extension will cost every devolved unit Sh100 million per annum.

Njuki said the CoG was of the view that it’s easier and cheaper to buy the equipment directly, service them and train personnel instead of paying service providers Sh100 million a year when devolved units service the machines.

The CoG health committee chair read an eight-point statement of the resolutions of the committee’s retreat that was also attended by a section of Parliamentary Health Committee members.

They urged devolved units to continue to increase and optimize investment in healthcare with the total budget allocation by county governments to health currently averaging 30 per cent.

The committee recommended that MoH and CoG establish a taskforce to look at the transition of the UHC staff before the expiry of their contracts. This is to ensure continuity of service delivery by the staff.

Among the issues the CoG wants addressed included the construction of Level 2 and 3 health facilities.

On the Microwave Medical waste treatment project, the CoG wants the MoH to fast track implementation of its obligations under the commercial contract to construct the infrastructure and related facilities for installation of the microwave before further shipments and deliveries are made to the counties.

CS Wafula pledged to work closely with the CoG to ensure delivery of quality, affordable and accessible health care services at the grassroots level.

“Working closely with the Council of Governors, I envision us sustaining the gains made, while quickly and amicably resolving pending and emerging issues within the laid out consultative frameworks, and sometimes and ad hoc interactions,” she said.

The CS also noted that Human Resource for Health remains a key asset in service delivery as it drives other health systems building blocks.

She said the national government contracted staff under the UHC programme continued serving in the counties selflessly and that they would soon be absorbed into a permanent workforce when their contracts expire as the experience and training they have already acquired will continue to support the counties’ health systems.

“Counties have made different progress in their absorption. Absorption of the remaining staff remains a priority and will be a big boost to ongoing efforts to strengthen health systems for service continuity,” Wafula said.

The CS also addressed some key accelerator projects in the counties including the Managed Equipment Service (MES) and Health Financing that she said will need joint efforts to sustain the gains made during the Universal Health Coverage journey.

She downplayed the controversy surrounding the extension of the MES project noting that her Ministry will sit down with the county chiefs to resolve the issue amicably.

“And as we negotiate with the CoG on the issue of the MES project, I assure Kenyans that there would be no lapse in service delivery,” she said.

By Hussein Abdullahi

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