Kenyan Catholic Bishop Decries Poor Services at Country’s National Medical Insurer

Screengrab of Bishop Joseph Obanyi of Kenya's Kakamega Diocese on Capuchin TV. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Service delivery at Kenya’s biggest medical insurer, National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), is wanting despite huge investment in the entity, the Bishop of Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese has said.

In a recording by the Nairobi-based Capuchin TV shared with ACI Africa and posted on YouTube Tuesday, November 23, Bishop Joseph Obanyi said the fund has become notorious for failing to meet its end of the deal especially when it comes to footing its clients’ medical bills.

Bishop Obanyi said that Kenyans are required to submit their payment to 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 observed, and added, “when you default, there is a penalty.”

“NHIF, you better think: whether you are serving Kenyans or you are serving yourself,” he said, and explained, “We are having an outcry everywhere; you go to St Mary’s Mumias Mission Hospital, that is the problem we have. We launched a Diocese unit and we need our patients to access NHIF so that they can be treated nearer here, and NHIF can’t give us money.”


The Local Ordinary of Kakamega Diocese who doubles as the Apostolic Administrator of Kenya’s Bungoma Diocese cautioned the leadership of NHIF against their “callous behavior” saying that they should be ashamed for allowing innocent Kenyans to suffer even after paying the national health insurer.

He further lamented that private hospitals in the East African country are getting more attention from NHIF than public and faith-based health facilities.

“I have noticed that the facilities that seem to be having constant payment of NHIF are not public institutions or faith-based; they are private. Now I ask myself what language are you (private hospitals) speaking with them (NHIF) so that they give you money that we (faith-based) don’t have?” Bishop Obanyi posed.

The Bishop who was speaking at St. Elizabeth Mukumu Mission Hospital of Kakamega Diocese on November 17 added, “I have seen expensive private hospitals in Kenya thriving last year and this year more than any other hospital that I know.”

He said, in reference to private hospitals, “They are making millions because you go there and the NHIF pays immediately.”

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“This is what I am calling a sick society. Kenya is becoming a sick society when we are looking at money and profits and ignoring the poor people who need the services,” Bishop Obanyi said November 17 while presiding over the opening of a new wing at St. Elizabeth Mukumu Mission Hospital

The Kenyan Bishop who is at the helm of Caritas Department of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) regretted that he had participated in a campaign that sought to compel Kenyans to register for NHIF services.

“Sometimes we were campaigning around telling everybody to register with NHIF so that we can have a bigger number of people and even patients. We didn’t know we were campaigning for NHIF to get more money and disappear,” Bishop Obanyi said.

He further faulted the insurance facility for withholding money meant for faith-based facilities thereby making it hard for them to execute their duties well including purchasing drugs.

“When I was the Vice chair of the health commission, the debt owed to faith-based institutions was up to the tune of KES 2 billion (US$17.66 million); even Mukumu here was owed more than Kshs. 40 million (US$353,302),” he said in reference to St. Elizabeth Mukumu Mission Hospital.


Last week, Bishop Obanyi called for service to the poor, especially the sick, and urged politicians to consider service to this group of vulnerable people who are in most cases forgotten.

In his homily on the Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the Kenyan Bishop used the life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary to call upon the wealthy and politicians to always be ready to reach out to the poor.

The Catholic Bishop further challenged the people of God in Kenya to emulate the Catholic saint, noting that the poor are always there in the society and cannot be ignored.

“St Elizabeth (of Hungary), despite her affluence and fame, chose to serve the poor. Do we have the poor among us? We do. Do we have the sick among us? We do. How often do we serve them with love?” Bishop Obanyi who has been at the helm of Kakamega Diocese since his Episcopal Ordinary in March 2015 queried.


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