Private health sector in Kenya

Kenya is a country based in the continent of Africa, whose external debt has grown over the years and despite its commitment to meet its debt through regular servicing which is done at an expense of key social services such as health, education, water and sanitation.

The impression of private health care in Kenya is expanding this has made it adopt a pluralistic health system. The government was facing a fiscal burden in the provision of health care which had to be transferred  to private health care providers and individuals, where by the government initiated a cost- sharing program as part of reducing the government burden.

The private health sector has made a remarkable contribution in the delivery of health care to the public. There has not been a proper policy formulation for this sector due to its nature in distribution.

The medical practitioners in Kenya operate most of the private healthcare facilities; most of them ignore rules and regulations that govern the profession. This has made the government to have many different types of private health care providers ranging from traditional to modern practitioners and from individuals to large hospitals. [1]

In Kenya the private health care providers are either profit making or non-profit making, the private health care has made a major contribution in the delivery of health care in Kenya. It has filled a resource gap for health development by improving efficiency and quality of care by promoting competition and complementing public sector services.

The conditions in the public health facilities have forced the public to seek alternatives in the health care sector; this is because of the failure of the government to provide reliable and good quality health care services despite the fact that patients exhibit willingness to pay for quality healthcare. Private health care sector is said to be running successful health care facilities for which even the poor patients are willing to pay for the better quality of services.

There reasons as to why the private sector activity has increased in Kenya are 1. The increasing resource and the poor performance of the public sector, 2. The response to the weak provision of public health services which is in efficient in the delivery of the services leading to the wastage of resources.

3. the poor remuneration of personnel, low morale, lack of ownership of the services by communities , poor logistic support  and little opportunities for continuing education have further degraded the quality of services.

The introduction of user fees, the decline in food availability and nutrition, decreased immunization coverage, increased incidences of HIV/AIDS and increasing poverty reduces the quality and quantity of health care services to the poor.  Promoting non-health aspects of well-being and financing the redistribution to the poor.

Health services and programs in Kenya are financed from three main sources: (I) the government through the exchequer both directly to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and indirectly to other sectors with health-related functions (National Council of Population and Development, Ministry of Water Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, Culture and Social Services); (ii) donors who fund the ministry of health programs, and (iii) the private sector and NGOs.

The government has several avenues to raising health care funds, but some methods have not borne fruit. For example, the generating of more resources through the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) is limited and uncertain due to the weak administrative system, poor investment portfolio, and low claims settlement, which have characterized the fund. [2]

The impact of cost-sharing is little on the revenue generation, as less than 3 per cent of the total government recurrent health budget is realized through cost- sharing.

The government’s manpower policy is to increase the number of personnel at the periphery level to reduce hospital workload although this has been done their distribution is very uneven. About 80 per cent of the doctors and dentists work in the urban areas, while only 20 per cent of the population work in rural work in rural areas.

The rural areas in Kenya have been most severely affected by the imbalance, having an adverse effect on health care provision, as health personnel constitute an important input in the delivery of health service; this situation is leading individual practitioners to set up their own health care centres.

[1] Task Force on National Essential Health Research (1991): Proceedings on the Convention on Essential Health Research in Kenya, Nairobi
[2] Government of Kenya (1994): Kenya’s Health Policy Framework:- Nairobi, Government Printer