Kemsa monopoly dangerous for county health
For an institution whose mandate means the difference between life and death for thousands, the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) has repeatedly let us all down.
It is not possible to link any loss of life to the inefficiency and casual approach Kemsa has previously employed but revelations that health authorities in Nairobi have destroyed drugs worth millions of shillings because they were dumped just as they were about to expire is worrying, to say the least.
It has become commonplace that once you visit a city clinic, you get a prescription note for which a chemist next to the health centre will demand a tidy sum.
All this while inefficiency or illegality at Kemsa has ensured that the health centre’s store is full of expired drugs.
However, it gets more serious when you consider that there are millions of Nairobi residents living hand to mouth and that vital drugs worth thousands of shillings are luxuries they cannot afford.
It means they have to either pawn everything they own to buy the medicine for themselves or their children, or ignore the disease and play Russian roulette with their lives.
On paper, the system seemed logical. The Treasury would wire Kemsa funds for buying the country’s drugs supply. Economies of scale and guaranteed quality of the medicine made the system enviable.
The local authorities would then get a drawing right allowing them to requisition what they needed. But that is where it would break down as Kemsa would supply at its own pace; whether you needed the drugs or not.
With devolution, health fell under the ambit of county governments, giving them the power to ignore Kemsa if it gave them a raw deal.
Some senators allege there is a plot to bring back the monopoly of drugs supply through the government-sponsored Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Amendment) Bill.
Allegations that drug cartels’ tentacles have spread to the agency should inform caution to a plan that could expose Wanjiku to these past inefficiencies.
Unless Kemsa is rid of corruption and its byword becomes efficiency, the monopoly remains a dangerous one.