KENYA— The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Susan Nakhumicha , has unveiled her intentions to enhance healthcare access and services for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

These fresh details emerged after she addressed the Senate on Wednesday.

Back in March 2023, the Ministry of Health aimed to enhance access to suitable rehabilitation services for people with disabilities at all lower-level establishments.

At the time, the Ministry of Health and its partners launched the 2022–2026 rehabilitative services and assistive technology strategy, which aimed to provide assistive devices that can either maintain or enhance an individual’s functioning and independence, thereby improving their overall well-being.

These assistive devices include hearing aids, wheelchairs, communication aids, spectacles, prostheses, pill organizers, and memory aids.

Several initiatives have been implemented, including the subsidization of commodities related to certain disabilities to promote access and reduce the cost of procuring assistive devices for use by people with disabilities.

Among the challenges experienced by people with disabilities was the lack of defined or uniform standards for identifying the presence of a disability and categorizing it.

To address these difficulties in categorizing people with disabilities, the ministry issued the Disability Medical Assessment and Categorization Guidelines.

Additionally, various county disability assessment teams were educated and trained on how to implement these guidelines.

The Ministry had also pledged to make progress toward establishing optimal rehabilitative care for everyone and streamlining rehabilitative service delivery at all levels of care.

However, the ministry’s efforts have dwindled over time, with the demand for rehabilitation services remaining unmet due to issues such as a shortage of rehabilitation services outside of urban regions and lengthy waiting times.

In response to a question from Senator George Mbugua on Wednesday, CS Nakhumincha emphasized the Ministry’s commitment to advocating for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) by enacting inclusive policies and improving healthcare service accessibility.

She also mentioned that the Ministry has developed the Kenya Health Sector Strategic Plan 2018-2023, which aims to promote the implementation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

In addition, the ministry has created the Rehabilitative Services and Assistive Technology Strategy 2022-2026 to lead targeted investments aimed at increasing access for people with disabilities.

The Cabinet Secretary informed the House that the Ministry has also ensured that therapies such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and behavioral therapy, which are vital for children with disabilities, are all covered by the National Health Insurance Fund.

She emphasized that the Ministry is actively working to construct disability-friendly infrastructure, particularly in the reproductive health sector, and that plans are in progress to increase the availability of disability-friendly maternity beds.

According to her, the Ministry has taken several steps to improve service accessibility, including training staff in sign language and employing individuals with disabilities in the workforce as occupational therapists, speech therapists, and behavioral therapists to equip them with better skills for managing patients with these disabilities.

She also stated that the upcoming Social Health Insurance Act 2023, which was signed by President Kenyatta, will enable the ministry to ensure that rehabilitation services are covered to a greater extent by the National Health Insurance Fund.

She concluded by mentioning that the ministry is working on a Health Benefits Package that will encompass all aspects of care, including rehabilitation treatments, to promote inclusion and reduce out-of-pocket payments for persons with disabilities.

 

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