Religious leaders from churches that sponsor CHAK member health facilities have resolved to strengthen their advocacy efforts for government support towards provision of quality health care for all Kenyans. This resolve comes in the wake of challenges experienced by CHAK member health units due to the on-going doctors’ strike.
CHAK hosted a meeting of top religious leaders of affiliated member Churches last Thursday for information sharing and sensitization on the critical challenges currently facing the health sector. The meeting also discussed advocacy and partnership strategies towards supporting Faith Based Health Facilities to better cope with the increased patient workload, related financial burden of unpaid bills and inadequate resources to cope with the current health sector crisis.
Faith based organisations run substantial health services in Kenya with churches boasting an expansive network of health facilities. CHAK’s membership currently stands at 579 health units, community health programmes, Medical Training Colleges, churches and church health programmes all affiliated to 50 protestant church denominations around the country. Protestant churches are committed to provision of accessible and affordable quality health care in line with the Government Constitutional mandate on health and Health Sector policy framework.
The church leaders reiterated their commitment to ensuring the doctors’ strike was resolved at the earliest possible opportunity saying they would lobby the Government, Ministry of Health and county governments for better health services for all Kenyans. Government support would be key in empowering the CHAK network to provide quality and affordable health services, especially in emergency situations like the on-going crisis occasioned by the doctors’ strike.
During the meeting, CHAK member facilities shared their experiences with the on-going doctors’ strike with most decrying the huge debts incurred due to some patients’ inability to pay for health services. Kenya’s Constitution guarantees the right to health and many mission facilities, as a policy, do not turn away patients who cannot afford to pay for services.
Among the major effects of the doctors’ strike that emerged during the forum were:
Upsurge in patient numbers
A key outcome of the industrial action was a general upsurge in the number of patients visiting mission hospitals, in both outpatient and inpatient departments, with numbers sometimes increasing by as much as 40 per cent. This has led to overstretched services.
Human Resources for health
The upsurge in patient numbers has put immense pressure on health systems in the CHAK facilities, especially on health workers who have to work extra hard to serve every client professionally. The threat of burnout for health care workers in CHAK health facilities is real as even the pool of available locum staff has been depleted.
Some of the health workers in the CHAK health facilities are unionisable and sympathetic to their striking colleagues. Doctors and nurses are some of the cadres sympathetic to the strike and in some mission hospitals, nurses have given notice for their own industrial action unless their pay demands are met. Once the pay demands of government-employed doctors are met, their colleagues in mission hospitals would also demand to be put on the same salary scale.
Effects on bottom line
An increase in litigation is expected due to overworked health care staff.
Additionally, the mission hospitals are experiencing an increased burden of staff allowances for work done overtime leading to depleted revenue.
Medical supplies and commodities have quickly dwindled due to increased patient numbers. The volume of medical supplies purchased has gone up, in some instances by as much as 35 per cent. Storage space for the increased quantities of medical supplies is also a challenge.
Additionally, many patients affected by the strike pay minimal fees or nothing at all in government facilities and yet have been forced to seek services in mission hospitals due to the strike. Mission hospitals ordinarily charge for services for their sustenance. These factors have conspired to increase the level of bad debts incurred by CHAK hospitals during the strike. AIC Kijabe Hospital’s bad debt as a result of the strike, for example, stands at Ksh12 million while that of Maua Methodist Hospital stands at Ksh8 million, affecting the operations of the health facilities.
Due to demand for surgical services, mission hospitals are focusing on emergency cases and postponing elective cases leading to unhappy clients. Some of the unhappy clients have taken to social media to air their grievances, compromising the reputation of the mission hospitals. The long queues are also likely to put off some of the loyal customers of mission hospitals, leading to reduced revenue once the strike is resolved.
Referral has proved quite a challenge. Many critical patients are getting to the health facility when it is too late to make an impact on their recovery.
Making a positive difference in Kenya’s health sector
Throughout the health care crisis brought about by the doctors’ strike, mission hospitals have demonstrated their calling and dedication to serve the underprivileged. The crisis has shown that church health facilities are ready to make a positive difference in Kenya’s health sector and strengthened the Christian values of compassion and selflessness in these institutions.
The crisis has led to honest self-evaluation by CHAK health facilities enabling them to clearly identify their strengths and weaknesses. It has also been an opportunity for the facilities to market themselves with communities now being more aware of the specialized and general services offered in mission health facilities around them.
PCEA Tumutumu signed an MOU with Nyeri County which agreed to support the CHAK member health unit with staff, commodities and equipment. This followed an increase in the maternity and delivery workload by over 500 per cent during the strike. The new development has opened up communication with the county government, which initiated the process of development of the MOU, and other health facilities in the area.
Medical Training Colleges are now sending students for rotations to the mission hospitals with these partnerships expected to continue into the long term. A good example of this is Kendu Adventist Hospital which has started receiving MTC students on rotation.
The meeting was held at CHAK Guest House & Conference Centre located on Musa Gitau Road off Waiyaki Way, Nairobi.
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