COVID-19 exposed and exacerbated the fragility of the health systems in Kenya, pointing out the urgent need to invest in resilient health systems and infrastructure. The pandemic caught everyone unaware, leading to the loss of lives as the necessary equipment and resources were either inadequate or unavailable. The over-stretched resources could not meet the increasing demand, especially for patients needing medical oxygen therapy. Amref Health Africa in Kenya, working collaboratively with partners like the Council of Governors, the Ministry of Health and with funding from the Global Fund, saw this gap and embarked on a journey to strengthen systems for primary healthcare – including pandemic preparedness and response through the provision of medical oxygen ecosystem to health facilities across the country.
The journey to building resilient health systems in Kenya has equipped health facilities with the needed equipment as a precursor to future health threats and emergencies. The launch, commissioning and handing over of a 3 Tonne Bulk Liquid Oxygen Tank to the Webuye County Referral Hospital was a timely gesture to ensure that the last mile communities are not left behind in accessing and receiving quality and affordable healthcare whenever needed. The medical oxygen ecosystem adds to the county’s resources to meet the increasing demand for Oxygen therapy, especially for the maternal and newborn unit and emergency sections.
Speaking during the launch and handover ceremony, the Webuye Referral Hospital, Medical Superintendent, Dr Simon Kisaka, pointed out that the hospital is high volume and that the gesture will go a long way in addressing some of the challenges faced by the hospital including, the need for medical oxygen, especially for patients in the maternal and newborn units as well as victims of road accidents who require oxygen therapy.
We are located along a busy highway, and often, we receive victims of road accidents; before the support from Global Fund through Amref Health Africa in Kenya, we were not able to fully attend to the patients due to the inadequate and overstretched oxygen resources – it was expensive and an added financial expense to patients who could not afford the high cost of medical oxygen. We are happy and thank our partners for choosing our facility for such a huge and generous support – Dr Simon Kisaka, Medical Superintendent, Webuye Referral Hospital.
Also speaking during the ceremony was Dr Andrew Wekesa Wamalwa, CEC, Health, Bungoma County. He commended Amref Health Africa in Kenya and its partners for considering the county with such a huge life-saving investment. He affirmed the county’s support and continued collaboration in ensuring that the people of Bungoma County receive quality and affordable healthcare without suffering financial hardship, as previously seen during COVID-19. He reiterated that Webuye County Referral Hospital does not serve the people of Bungoma alone but even patients from neighbouring counties. “The 3-tonne bulk liquid oxygen tank launched today will greatly help strengthen health service delivery by the hospital, ensuring that no one is left behind, especially patients who require oxygen therapy”. We will also invest more in the health workforce across the health facilities in the county to address the challenges posed by the shortage of well-trained and equipped health workers. Community health promoters are an integral part of the health system, and their role contributes immensely to strengthening systems for primary healthcare; we will not forget them; we will ensure that they are recognized and receive a monthly stipend.
Strengthening systems for primary healthcare towards the attainment of UHC is at the heart of the governor. He is committed through the Lusaka Care initiative to ensure that the last mile communities in the county receive quality, affordable and timely healthcare, said the CEC, Dr Andrew Wekesa Wamalwa.
To ensure that we leave no one behind;
- We are eliminating the deposit cost required for oxygen cylinders, allowing more facilities to access medical oxygen, reducing the financial burden on healthcare facilities, many of which struggle to meet this cost.
- We are prioritizing oxygen piping to 4 facilities in Bungoma County, delivering oxygen directly to the bedside from a central manifold and a Bulk Liquid reservoir. This approach will benefit level 3 and 4 facilities, significantly improving the quality of care for patients who rely on oxygen therapy.
- We are committed to equipping county Bio-Medical Engineers with relevant skills and expertise to manage medical oxygen equipment, with many engineers already trained in the county. By providing these professionals with the skills and knowledge they need, we are investing in the long-term sustainability of our healthcare system.
Peter Waiganjo, Venture Development Manager at Amref Health Africa in Kenya, emphasized the need for collaboration in addressing health challenges in Kenya. “I want to acknowledge the incredible potential within each of us to create lasting health change in Kenya and, in particular, Bungoma County. The oxygen infrastructure we hand over today is a testament to what we can achieve when we collaborate, invest in the well-being of our communities, and champion the cause of accessible and quality healthcare for all”.
The launch and handover of the 3-tonne oxygen infrastructure in Bungoma County marked the beginning of a series of launches that will be done across the country as an intervention to strengthening systems for primary healthcare.
Author: Noah Wekesa W. – Communications, Amref HQ and Kenya.