(Kennedy Mong'are Okong'o was the first Senator of Nyamira. He is also the National Liberal Party leader)
Although there are many gains Kenyans can talk of about devolution, health services is definitely not one of them.
The mentioning of health issues in the country leaves a bad taste in the mouth for many people premised on the fact that the sector is dotted with frustration and incessant strikes.
While working with the Transitional Authority at the commencement of the devolved governments, Senate’s role was to hear and listen to requests by county governments on the functions to be handed over to the counties by the national government.
Agriculture, culture and sports, early childhood education, polytechnics, water resources and management were among the first function to be devolved.
But when it came to devolving healthcare, I had my reservations based on prior knowledge and experience since I had worked as an advisor to the then Minister for Health Charity Ngilu who is now the Kitui Governor.
At the time, my reservations fell on deaf ears because governors had this huge appetite for almost all functions to be devolved matters of capacity notwithstanding.
My proposal was to devolve primary healthcare first. Prevention and treatment of malaria, tuberculosis, waterborne diseases, maternity services and HIV/AIDS. Thereafter, they would gradually devolve healthcare.
I was, however, surprised to see how ignorant veteran politicians were on this issue. I was the only Senator back then who voted against devolution of healthcare to the counties.
Now, the chickens have come home to roost.
How can the national government devolve health functions and fail to send funds as per the requirements of the Constitution?
Agriculture is devolved but the mother ministry is still intact with the same budget and human resource which is the case for the Ministry of Health.
The way forward out of the national health crisis is now through a referendum. We must have a National Health Commission akin to other commissions like the Teachers Service Commission, Public Service Commission.
This will enable professional independence and a permanent solution to the myriad challenges that dogs the health sector in the country.
Rampant strikes, lack of key services in public hospitals such as access to drugs, laboratory services among others will be addressed by this new model.
The commission will also set standards which will not allow some county bosses with a lot of impunity and contempt to run the sector to an abyss as we are currently seeing.