The public health system in Kenya is in dire state often marred with cartels, corruption, strikes by doctors and nurses, inadequate medical supplies, high maternal and child-mortality rates, long waiting times and poor access especially in marginalized areas in northern and eastern Kenya. Despite efforts to transform the healthcare system, no significant progress is evident with the exception of a vibrant private health sector.
Although you may need to dig deeper into your pocket, you are better served in private health facilities than in public ones in Kenya. The Kenyan government needs to get its act together to not only provide universal healthcare for all, but to ensure accessible, affordable and acceptable quality healthcare in its public sector.
Structure of Health System
The structure of health systems is designed in such a way that basic primary care is offered at lower levels while complex cases are being referred on higher levels. From the lowest level, the structure includes:
- Health dispensaries and privately-owned clinics – Offering outpatient services for minor ailments like colds
- Health centers – Catering to cases referred by clinics and dispensaries
- Nursing homes and sub-district hospitals – Offering secondary care
- District and private hospitals – With resource capacity to offer comprehensive medical services
- Provincial hospitals – e.g., Rift Valley Provincial Hospital, etc., with capacity to offer specialized care such as life support
- National Hospitals – Such as Kenyatta National hospital and Moi Teaching and Refferal Hospital-offers third level care
- Privately-run and mission hospitals – Function to fill in gaps left in the health system
The highest percentage of resources and time in the Kenyan health system is spent treating:
- Road accidents
Options of healthcare for locals and foreigners
Other than the public health system, varied healthcare options are open for locals and foreigners.
Herbal medicine, a form of alternative medicine, has played an important role in promoting health among Kenyans in rural and urban areas and across the social classes. From treating flu and acne, to complex diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure, etc., herbal medicine is central in health promotion in Kenya. Although issues of safety and efficacy have been cited, herbal medicine remains a major healthcare option for locals and foreigners.
Private Health System
This attracts the largest percentage of patients and clients given the deplorable state of the public health systems. Despite the high charges, many even those who cannot afford prefer this system because of:
- Ease in accessibility
- Quality health services
- Availability of adequate medical services
- Limited delay and waiting times
Dental health in Kenya is in poor state given the limited number of dental specialists and limited public awareness about the importance of oral health.
- A mere 0.0016% of the health budget is allocated to oral health
- More than 90% of adults have a gum condition
- Decayed, filled, broken and missing teeth is a norm among Kenyans
- Less than 5% of Kenyans access dental health
- Dental health is a privilege of the middle and upper classes, and the fact that dental health insurance is costly, and that a majority of dental clinics and specialists are located in urban areas, does not help matters
Cosmetic Coverage / Aesthetic Medicine
A third-world nation it may be but Kenya is not left behind in embracing aesthetic medicine. Often offered by private hospitals, procedures in aesthetic medicine are registering increased number of clientele. From BOTOX, liposuction and facial chemical peels to mesotherapy and breast implants, cosmetic coverage in Kenya is sizeable and growing.