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Drug shortage hits city hospitals as Kemsa cuts supply over debt

Patients are grappling with drug shortage in Nairobi county hospitals after the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) cut its supply over a Sh108 million debt.

Nairobi County executive for Health, Bernard Muia said the move has affected the supply of essential drugs in all county hospitals including Mama Lucy, Pumwani and Mbagathi over the last six months.

Pumwani is the leading public maternity hospital in the city while Mama Lucy and Mbagathi are hospitals of choice for low income earners.

Kemsa accounts for over 65 per cent of the drugs procurement by county hospitals.


The agency turned off its supply lines after City Hall failed to act within the 45-day grace period for debt clearance.

“The reduction of drugs has affected healthcare and treatment in our facilities but we are operating,” said Dr Muia.

“We normally pay monthly, we are faced with issues of cash flow now but we are addressing the issue and hope to get out of it soon.”

The county has been using money from its facilities’ improvement fund to buy basic drugs. The fund gets its cash from small fees charged by hospitals.

Dr Muia said that development partners and well-wishers only chip in the case of ARVs, for instance, to address the HIV/Aids scourge.


This accounts for less than 10 per cent of the drugs supply to the county, he said.

“For major hospitals like Mama Lucy, Pumwani and Mbagathi we have been buying basic drugs using money from our cost sharing kitty sourced from the facility improvement fund,” he said.

“We also have development partners who assist us a lot but that is no reason not to pay Kemsa,” he said.

Some county governments owed Kemsa over Sh870 million by last year which threatened to cripple the parastatal.

“With huge debts out there we might be unable to replenish our stocks. We will also not be able to supply drugs and Kemsa could collapse with,” said Dr John Munyu, the Kemsa chief executive, in a past interview.