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Catholic Church Not Competing with Others on Health Matters: Bishop in Kenya

Bishop Joseph Obanyi of the Catholic Diocese of Kakamega, Kenya, Credit: Catholic Diocese of Kakamega

The Catholic Church can collaborate with the government in handling health-related matters, a Bishop in Kenya has said, adding that such collaboration does not place the Church in competition with other stakeholders.

In his February 11 message during the annual celebration of the World Day for the Sick, Bishop Joseph Obanyi condemned corruption, partiality and cronyism in the country’s health institutions and schemes for health coverage and urged the government of the East African country to provide health coverage for all Kenyans.

“The Church is never a competitor with other stakeholders on matters of health, but the Church is a collaborator with the government on health-related matters”, Bishop Obanyi said.

The Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese who doubles as the Apostolic Administrator of Bungoma Diocese said that there is need for more attention to be given to the members in the society who are suffering from mental health-related illnesses.

He called on all offering services in mission hospitals to be welcoming and make the health facilities places “where everybody feels welcomed and where Christ is the healer par excellence.”

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“The word ‘mission’ is not just an entity but it’s the healing ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Bishop Obanyi said at the event that was celebrated at St. Charles Lwanga Parish of Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese.

The Kenyan Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Kakamega Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in March 2015 further called upon politicians to engage in conversations with the electorate on matters affecting the society especially in issues of health.

He spoke about ills affecting hospitals in the country saying, “Our health facilities in Kenya have not yet reached the stage where one walks freely in the hospital and gets treated.”

Bishop Obanyi urged health stakeholders in the country led by the government to think about improving affordable healthcare. He said that the Church should participate in the healthcare of Kenyans through “the healing ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

At the event that was attended by Kakamega County Government officials, health representatives and medical health representatives of Catholic facilities in the Kenyan Diocese, the Catholic Church leader cautioned those at the helm of health centres against the danger of creating the perception that the facilities are profit-making entities but to focus more on service delivery even amidst challenges.

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He expressed optimism that the country will one day have health facilities that will promote human dignity by providing quality services.

“I look at a time when our health facilities in Kenya will help the people to live as dignified persons by offering quality services including the Church as stakeholders on matters of health,” the 55-year-old Kenyan Bishop said.

Last year, Bishop Obanyi faulted Kenya’s national medical insurer for what he described as poor services to the people of God in the East African country despite huge investments channeled to the entity by the people.

He said that Kenyans are required to submit their payment to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) before the ninth day of every month, failure to which they are slapped with huge penalties. He complained that when the same clients seek treatment, the national insurer fails to respond appropriately.

“You have to pay NHIF at least every ninth of the month, but now when it is time for the NHIF to pay for the patients, we have to beg. Isn’t that strange?” the Kenyan Bishop who was speaking at St. Elizabeth Mukumu Mission Hospital of Kakamega Diocese on November 17 said, and added, “when you default, there is a penalty.”

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