Corporate Governance Key in achieving health goals

Kenya’s ability to remain productive, make huge economic gains and provide its citizens reasonable standards of living is dependent on how it governs the health sector especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has upended our ways of life, greatly exposing loopholes in research and reprioritisation of investment in both local and global healthcare systems.

Our level of preparedness in managing the pandemic, stem from leadership structures that have been put under the test. Global health goals like Universal Health Coverage (UHC) have been shaken to the core as many households globally have been plunged into health shocks resulting from the effects of the deadly disease.

When health treatment remains high, it means hundreds of millions of people will not be able to access healthcare services eroding the gains already made in achieving universal health coverage.

Over the next decade, Kenya and the world hope to achieve UHC, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

Though shaken by the global pandemic, Kenya is on the right track to achieving the global health goals, if it takes a deliberate effort to re-look at its leadership and governance structures in the healthcare system.

For instance, Kenya unlike most countries in the world has attained the constitutional right to health as a fundamental human right. From this, the sector has witnessed the formulation of a number of national health strategies focusing on investments towards upgrading healthcare facilities, to enhancing service provision and access. A major development has been the abolition of user fees at primary healthcare facilities in 2013 to encourage uptake of services.

UHC is now a national priority in Kenya, following its inclusion among President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ‘Big Four Agenda’ for national sustainable development in 2018. However, access to healthcare is out of reach to many, largely compounded by out of pocket expenses and the fact that the right to health is not yet supported by legislation. The only legal provision closer to this is the one that states, no Kenyan shall be denied the right to treatment in any private healthcare facility.

To enable this work, we need to look at governance at all levels across the public and private healthcare sectors. A major emphasis should be on the people selected to head health institutions. They should be good enough to craft very clear and constructive pathways that will allow seamless execution of life-changing strategies.

It is worth noting that most healthcare institutions in Kenya do not lack good strategies but clear governance structures linking those strategies to actual execution. When we have the right people leading and guiding the execution of these strategies, we will start realising results in terms of among other customers satisfaction and an increase in uptake of services, key indicators towards universal access.

With these governance structures, it will be easy for institutions to attract adequate healthcare financing, retention of much-needed manpower skills as well as equipping the facilities and providing necessary supplies for the success of UHC.

With good governance structures in place, resources would be more appropriately assigned, and developed in adequate numbers and utilized productively not just now but also in the future.

To reach this phase there is also an urgent need to review a myriad of bodies legislated to have oversight over health care institutions. The review there on the mandate and the quality of office bearers elected to sit on their boards and most importantly the leaders appointed to lead the institutions they oversee.

All these efforts must be in line with global benchmarks if we are to get the best results in our quest to achieving global healthcare goals.
Globally, healthcare systems are disparate. You will find that some are government-driven, others run by the private sector, yet others are a hybrid of private-public sectors.

A hybrid healthcare system would ideally deliver better results due to existing synergies in terms of technical expertise and availability of investment funds to accelerate the implementation of strategies.

Having the right mix of leaders and a better leadership structure is therefore now more critical than ever to ensure the country stays on course and delivers healthy lives and promotes the well-being of all citizens of all ages by the year 2030 as manifested in sustainable development goal number 3 which ensures healthy lives and promotes well-being for all.

The writer is a healthcare and management consultant

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