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Third wave threatens to buckle all 47 counties’ healthcare systems, but who dropped the ball?

By Hillary Mageka On Tue, 30 Mar, 2021 17:22 | 2 mins read
governors
Governors at a past function. PHOTO | FILE

It has now emerged that the county governments are ill-prepared to tackle the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most counties remain ill-prepared to wrestle the pandemic as most healthcare facilities lack basic oxygen equipment, requisite personnel to run Intensive Care Units (ICU) and isolation facilities.

These are the revelations contained in the first progress report of the House Committee on Health tabled in Senate on Tuesday.

The committee chaired by Trans-Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito has warned that if containment measures put in place to break the chain of transmission are not implemented, the counties’ healthcare system will be overrun and will be unable to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Based on the testimony of the Council of Governors (Cog), the committee reckons that pandemic preparedness and response interventions in the counties have been hampered by lack of adequate resources because of delayed exchequer releases from the National Treasury.

“The committee recommends National Treasury act urgently to ensure the prompt and timely disbursement of the county shareable revenue in accordance with the provisions of Article 219 of the constitution,” the report reads in part.

The nine-member panel found that despite an upsurge of confirmed cases of covid-19 and growing fears that the country is in a lethal stage of the third wave of the pandemic, healthcare facilities in the devolved units are still ill-equipped.

For instance, as of Monday, March 29, 2021, the positivity rate hit a shocking 26.6 percent.

This means is that for every 100 people tested, over a quarter or more than 26 were found to be infected by the virus.

The Senate team wants the county governments to take necessary steps and measures to ensure the availability of basic infrastructure, oxygen equipment and requisite health personnel at all level 2, 3, 4 and 5 health facilities with immediate effect.

The report discloses that as of March 30, 2021, the 47 county governments had a total capacity of 7,587 isolation beds, and 319 Intensive Care Units (ICU) against a requirement of 13,144 isolation beds and 506 ICU beds respectively.

“Counties must urgently act to ensure that expanding ICU and isolation infrastructure across the counties is matched with the availability of requisite specialised personnel including ICU nurses, medical anesthesiologists and anesthetists,” the report said.

The committee also wants the Ministry of Health and Treasury to act urgently to address the Sh790 million budgetary deficit at KEMRI to enable the institute to recruit, train additional staff, purchase laboratory reagents and materials for COVID-19 screening and testing.

Besides, finance high-impact research on COVID-19 and procure various equipment that they need.

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