KENYA: ‘NHIF is crippling our hospitals,’ Says Bishop King’oo on Pending Bills Owed to Private Health Institutions

By Paschal Norbert

KANGUNDO, FEBRUARY 13, 2024 (CISA)Rt Rev Norman King’oo Wambua, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Machakos has warned that the provision of affordable healthcare at faith-based institutions is on the brink of a total collapse due to pending bills owed to the facilities by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

“I don’t know what happened. But there is no more money. Where is the money? Because as I speak now as faith leaders, in areas where we have hospitals. The debt owed to our institutions by NHIF is worrying. They are outrightly crippling our hospitals,” said Bishop King’oo at the Diocesan Pilgrimage and Thanksgiving Mass held at the Komarock Shrine in Kangundo, Machakos County on February 10.

For months now, the Catholic bishops have been appealing to the government to release NHIF funds to mission health institutions, warning that most of the Church healthcare institutions, which offer their services to people from low-income households and in remote regions, are struggling to operate.

In a November 10 press conference, at the end of the Catholic Bishops’ plenary held at St. Mary Pastoral Center in the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru, the bishops said the reimbursement of the funds is necessary for the said facilities to continue offering their services at the grassroots.

“Think about it, our health centre like Bishop Kioko we are owed about 60 to 70 million. What will we do? Kindly, you politicians maybe you can answer where the money went. Tell us where the money went and bring it back so that we can treat our faithful and the others,” charged Bishop King’oo.

In light of the imminent reorganization of the NHIF to the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF), which is scheduled to commence operations on March 1, 2024, the Catholic bishops raised concern about the hurried implementation of the new scheme without settling the shortfalls of the old scheme.

“It is for this reason that we once more raise our concern about the backlog of huge unpaid reimbursements to Mission Heath Institutions that support the health provision at the grassroots. For example, among the many Faith Institutions, the Catholic Mission Hospitals are still owed over 1 Billion Shillings by NHIF. We are still worried about what may happen after the planned reorganization of NHIF,” the bishops noted.

According to Bishop King’oo, the issue is not only affecting the mission health institutions but many other hospitals as well.

He stated, “We have a big problem. We are appealing to you our leaders, that is why we elected you, to act as our watchdog and to question how our monies are being spent yet we pay taxes.”

According to local news reports, many hospitals are still waiting for their dues to be paid from NHIF. A situation that is proving to be unsustainable for the majority of private hospitals.

In an interview with the Sunday Nation in April 2023, Dr Timothy Olweny, the Secretary General of the Kenya Association of Private Hospitals, said “Most of the hospitals are in debt and the only way they will continue giving quality healthcare to their clients and NHIF members is that monies have to be released.”

The Catholic Church runs close to 30% of all healthcare facilities in Kenya. According to data from the Catholic Health Commission of Kenya, the Church has an expansive network that consists of 451 health units: 69 hospitals, 117 health centres, 14 Medical Training Colleges and 251 Dispensaries.

The Church also runs more than 46 Community-Based Health and Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Programs.