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New health laws to revolutionise healthcare services says Health PS Mary Muthoni

Four health laws assented to by President William Ruto, last year are set to revolutionise and transform the provision of healthcare services in the country, Health PS Ms Mary Muthoni, has said.

Ms Muthoni said the four laws, Primary Health Care Act, 2023, the Digital Health Act, 2023, the Facility Improvement Financing Act, 2023 and the Social Health Insurance Act, 2023 that are anchored in the government’s bottom-up transformation agenda are geared towards the realization of the universal healthcare coverage.

The PS was speaking during the occasion to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Metropolis Star Lab Kenya and the launch of their state-of-the-art reference laboratory in Westlands, Nairobi, where she was the chief guest.

“This occasion is really significant because it demonstrates, the desire for private partners to support the government in providing innovative health solutions, a vision share by the current administration,” she said.

Ms Muthoni said the Digital Health Act would not only provide the necessary legal and institutional framework for the use of the information technology in the provision of healthcare services but also facilitate the rollout of universal health coverage (UHC) in the country.

“How sweet would it be that our national public health lab is interconnected with Metropolis, that anything we need, if we need to refer any sample from our lab to Metropolis lab we will not require it to be taken probably physically or carry books all over,” she said.

She added that the Digital Health Act would be a real game changer as it would revolutionalise the referral system right from the health facility at the bottom pyramid from dispensaries to level 3 to 4 hospitals and to diagnostic laboratories like Metropolis who would do the real job of facilitating the movement of data from these facilities to labs.

The PS said this development would result in increasing testing capacity and deploying a robust integrated sample referral system and enhancing quality control mechanisms to ensure the testing has integrity that is required.

Ms Muthoni revealed that the Social Health Act of 2023 that would facilitate the roll out of the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) would ensure that all patients in the country would be able to access services from labs and any health facility in the country as the government was determined not see any hospital send away sick people because they don’t have money to pay for their treatment.

“The Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) where everybody will pay Sh 300 and those employed to pay 2.75 percent of their cross pay will allow anybody who is not able to pay Sh 300 to access medical services,” she said.

She added that the Emergency and Chronic Illness Fund would take care of long-term illness that have bedeviled Kenyans for long.

“Labs like Metropolis with proper diagnostics, proper equipment, proper human resources and proper infrastructure will give us the right diagnostics for treatment,” she added.

Ms Muthoni said in the recent past, there has been a notable increase in for tests for diseases like Hiv-Aids, tuberculosis and more people had enrolled for in-care services requiring constant treatment monitoring.

She said viral load testing volume increased from 1 million in 2022 to about 1.2 million in 2023, while tuberculosis culture testing volume rose from 20,000 to 22,000 in the same period.

The PS added that to improve these diagnostics and make them affordable and accessible to every Kenyan, the government needs to improve provision of diagnostic services.

“We recognize the critical role of screening toxins either in food safety, public health, particularly in light of regular cases of cancer from various sites across the country,” she noted.

Ms Muthoni said she was happy to hear the collaboration between Metropolis and the county government of Tharaka-Nithi and called for the extension of similar cooperation with other counties across the country.

She said the effects of climate change which result in spikes of emergency infections and other health emergencies need innovative strategies to increase testing volumes for samples.

“Strategies that we can deploy together both as private and the public sectors include deploying rapid testing technology,” she added.

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