It is no secret that our health system has recently faced some challenges that have stretched its capacity, with the biggest challenge being the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government through the Ministry of Health and its other arms has put in place measures to ensure that our health systems are able to serve the Kenyan people as we navigate the pandemic. These measures have in fact helped many health facilities to improve on their capacity, processes and resources to serve Kenyans long after the pandemic is over.
This has helped build on one of the government’s more ambitious Big Four Agenda projects that were introduced a few years back, the Universal Health Coverage, which aims to make access to quality healthcare available to all Kenyans without financial worries.
Kenya’s healthcare system is combination of many sectors: public, private and faith-based or NGO. About 48% are public and operate under the Ministry of Health, 41% are in the private sector, 8% are faith-based health services, and 3% are run by NGOs. These statistics prove that private sector players are critical in the attainment of Universal Health Coverage Agenda.
The Universal Health Coverage (UHC) initiative is about ensuring all individuals and communities have access to quality healthcare they need. Now, one thing we need to understand is that UHC does not necessarily mean healthcare is FREE, but rather that personal out-of-pocket payments do not discourage or make people shy away from using health services, and that people are protected from “catastrophic health expenditure”. Kenyans have this phrase, “Most Kenyans are just one critical illness away from poverty” because of the huge cost associated with accessing quality healthcare. However, Bliss Healthcare, has always aimed to change that narrative.
So how can private healthcare institutions, help in the attainment of universal health coverage? By setting up practices that have the capability to offer greater access, quality affordability of health services. A good example of such an institution is Bliss Healthcare.
Bliss Healthcare started over 10 years ago with the core objective of improving access to primary healthcare among millions of Kenyans. It is ranked as one of the leading health institutions championing for universal healthcare and is currently the largest integrated network of outpatient medical centres in Kenya with 65 outlets spread over 37 counties. The network serves over 80,000 patients each month through its workforce of over 2,000 employees (both direct and indirect employees).
The biggest factor in Bliss Healthcare’s growth has been the immense public approval for its health services offering. To achieve this, Bliss has relied on 4 key pillars beginning with accessibility, whereby Bliss Healthcare has ensured that as many Kenyans as possible have a Medical Centre near them. To do this, it set up Medical Centres in all parts of the country, including the remote areas such as Maralal, Kakuma and so on. By doing so, Bliss reduced the distance, time and transport costs that the local communities needed to cover in order to access healthcare.
Another key pillar is quality. Bliss Healthcare does not compromise on the quality of service provided to its patients. It is a policy that no matter where in the country a patient is, they will receive the same quality of medical care. This means that even if one is in Nairobi while another patient is in Kakuma, the equipment available, the staffing as well as the medication provided is all of the same standard. The standardized quality availed is the same throughout its footprint. Bliss Healthcare has an unmatched array of equipment including 5 CT Scans, 41 X-Rays, 51 Ultrasounds, 51 Dental Units and 48 Optical Units spread across the country.
Of course we can not forget affordability as a major factor of consideration. One of the biggest hindrance to accessing healthcare in Kenya is the huge costs associated with quality healthcare. With the public health system stretched and the private healthcare system deemed out of reach for the common mwananchi, Bliss Healthcare sought to bridge the gap. It came into the picture with an aim of providing satisfactory services at very affordable rates. Even with state of the art equipment, Bliss has some of the lowest rates of service for an institution of its calibre. It has partnerships with reliable health insurance firms including NHIF and many others as well.
Community Engagement through robust CSR programmes have seen it annually conduct over 100 free medical camps; free tests at its various medical centres including free BP, BMI, Random Blood Sugars, Optical and Dental checks; visits and donations to children’s homes, schools and farming communities and health talks at various companies to educate staff on preventative health issues.
Attaining UHC should not be viewed just as an issue of only having access to health services whenever needed without causing financial hazard. Part of the drive for UHC is ensuring that preventable diseases do not occur in the first place. Indeed, prevention is one of the key components of UHC for quality health services alongside health promotion, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.
As we celebrate Universal Health Coverage Day, its worth noting that active involvement of Private Sector players in terms of looking for ways to increase quality of healthcare services, efficiencies in delivery of healthcare services and lowering the cost of quality healthcare services, the government shall realize its UHC Agenda much faster.
Dr. Njue is the Chief Operating Officer at Bliss Healthcare Limited