Covid-19 likely to reverse maternal, newborn health gains by counties

With health being a devolved function, counties are expected to shoulder the burden of ensuring that the sector runs smoothly while ensuring key health indicators in the devolved units stay stable. But the new covid-19 threatens the gains made so far. Lilian Kaivilu spoke to Isiolo County governor Dr Mohammed Kuti who is also the Health committee chairman at the council of governors.

What do we expect to see in the counties post covid-19 in terms of the health indicators?

The fear for covid-19 is likely to instill fear among people hence reduce instances of visiting a health facility as hospitals are viewed as possible contamination points for the disease. This will, in turn, disrupt the maternal health indicators across the country. This will definitely bring disruptions in the health sector and adversely affect the health indicators in the counties.

Isiolo County Governor Dr Mohammed Kuti

Isiolo County Governor Dr Mohammed Kuti

Human resource in the health sector remains a challenge across counties. How are you prepared to handle this with the rising cases of covid-19?

We are preparing for a worse scenario. Definitely there will be movement of staff to prepare for eventualities of covid-19. This pandemic is creating a need that wasn’t there before. There is now an isolation facility in most health facilities in the country and that requires staff. It requires moving staff from where they are to the new service points. These had not been factored before.

Maternity health services are likely to be hard hit as the country shifts focus to covid-19 response. How best should counties prepare for this?
Both maternal and antenatal indicators are likely to dip. The demand for these services will be less because of fear of contracting the virus while attending clinics.

The country had already reached advanced levels of the budget making process before covid-19 hit. How is this likely to affect healthcare financing moving forward?

Budgets will shift and certain areas will be affected. But if we obey the government instructions on preventing the virus, then we’ll manage the curve to a situation where the health facilities will not be strained.

Community Health volunteers serve a very key role in preventive healthcare at community level. But with limited movements and no protective gear, many of them may be forced to stay home. How will this affect primary healthcare in the long run?

We were having very high hopes in terms of how our immunization and antenatal care indicators will perform but now we will have a challenge because community health workers cannot move freely into homesteads. They are only left with the option of phone calls to the individual households that they serve. But this is not adequate.

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