Kenya Medical Supplies Authority: Putting health at the forefront in Kenya

There can by few industries impacted by globalisation to the extent of the medical supply industry.

The demand of drugs and the regulatory minefield of legislation makes this a most-demanding sector.  With Kenya, much of the hard work in supplying the country with medical supplies is Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA), a state corporation under the Ministry of Health established under the KEMSA Act 2013.

Headquartered in Nairobi, where the organisation also operates a warehouse, KEMSA has a broad mandate encompassing:

The procurement. Warehousing and distribution of drugs and medical supplies for prescribed public health programs, the national strategic stock reserve, prescribed essential health packages and national referral hospitals.

KEMSA also aims to establish a network of storage, packaging and distribution facilities for the provision of drugs and medical supplies to health institutions.

It enters into partnership with or establish frameworks with County Governments for purposes of providing services in procurement, warehousing, distribution of drugs and medical supplies.

Collects information and provides regular reports to the national and county governments on the status and cost effectiveness of procurement, the distribution and value of prescribed essential medical supplies delivered to health facilities, stock status and on any other aspects of supply system status and performance which may be required by stakeholders.

Supports County Governments to establish and maintain appropriate supply chain systems for drugs and medical supplies.

With so many responsibilities, it is perhaps best to allow the organisation to explain its role, which is does on the corporate website:

“The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) is a specialised medical logistics provider for Ministries of Medical Services/Public Health and Sanitation-supported health facilities and programmes. KEMSA works to support the National Health Strategic Plan and the Kenya Health Package for Health in providing public health facilities with the “right quantity and quality of drugs and medical supplies” at the best market value. KEMSA’s overall mandate is to procure, warehouse and distribute medical commodities to public health facilities operated by the Ministry of Medical Services.

“To effectively deliver on the mandate, KEMSA carries out the following core functions that underpin its Business Priorities:

“Procurement: A mainstay function, procurement’s task is to source efficacious drugs and medical commodities at verifiable value-for-money prices for the tax-paying public. Our procurement procedures are guided the Public Procurement Regulations. KEMSA was created purposely to provide institutional framework for sourcing medical supplies centrally in order to ensure quality and economies of scale.

“Warehousing: Integrity of medical commodities requires more than just a roof over an open space in a four-wall enclosure. The specialised nature of drugs and medical commodities call for state-of-the-art racking schemes that facilitate ease of storage and stock retrieval procedures. Storage conditions for drugs and medicines vary from product to product in terms of lighting, temperatures and humidity, conditions that KEMSA warehouses throughout the country fulfil. Warehousing activities are also conducted to ensure the highest health and safety standards.

“Distribution & Customer Service: Customer Service Centres are conveniently located in    Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kakamega, Nyeri and Garissa. Manned by competent Regional Liaison Officers, the regional customer service teams work closely with health facilities to identify, quantify and make requisitions for essential drugs and medical commodities on behalf of our clients.

“Over and above ensuring sustainable stock levels of essential drugs and medical commodities, the regional liaison teams are also responsible for sensitising health practitioners and the public on rational drug use.”

Some sections of the population find it near impossible access essential medicines due to a number of factors, among them budgetary constraints and resistance to available drugs.  The National Medicines Policy (NMP), which incorporates both concepts of essential drugs and preventive health care, aims to ensure pharmaceutical services meet the requirement of the country in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases using efficacious, high-quality, safe and cost-effective products.

KEMSA works within the framework of the NMP and provides high levels of Quality Assurance, as it explains: “Our Quality Assurance systems ensure that all medicines and commodities conform to the highest standards possible. Over and above its in-house quality control mechanisms as outlined in the official “Quality and Procedures Manual”, we use other quality certification bodies such as the National Quality Control Laboratories and the Kenya Bureau of Standards to assure quality of medical commodities.

“Being essentially a pharmaceutical supply Authority, KEMSA knows more about drugs than any non-specialised procurement entities. The Kenya government entrusted KEMSA with the responsibility of running the rational drug use campaign following the “Kenya Essential Drugs List” which guides national expenditure on medicines.

“Essential drugs are those that satisfy health care needs of the majority of the population, and must, therefore, be available in adequate amounts and appropriate dosage forms”. This campaign is embedded in the KEMSA’s customer service team’s work plans to champion ideals of rational prescribing and use of drugs among health workers and the public.”

Last August it was announced that five more counties were set to benefit from the KEMSA and United Nations Children Fund’s provision of nutritional food and essential drugs.

This now brings to a total of seven the number of counties to benefit from ready-to-use therapeutic foods. This is after a successful pilot programme in Turkana and Laikipia counties at a cost of Sh515 million.

In the expanded project, Nairobi, Mandera, Marsabit, Baringo and West Pokot will be reached, help about five million undernourished Kenyans.

Speaking at the Kemsa supply chain centre in Embakasi, CEO John Munyu said the new project taps into the successes of the pilot project.

Munyu consulted with the new Unicef representative Werner Schultink.

He said the selection of the counties to benefit was based on a needs assesment of mulnutrition.

“By integrating the nutrition and health supply chain into Kemsa, we will eliminate duplication of roles and ensure equitable access to medical commodities by malnourished children and by all Kenyans,” Munyu said.

He said Kemsa will roll out the initiative to another 24 counties in the next 24 months.

In November 2015, KEMSA’s official newsletter ‘Bulletin’ announced that USAID had handed over the project to KEMSA and National AIDS & STI Control Program (NASCOP) making them responsible for handling ART supply for the 174 sites previously handled by Kenya Pharma.

The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority Chief executive Officer Dr. John Munyu said the project was handed over to the Authority after USAID conducted a vigorous and elaborate assessment with experts contracted by USAID to assess its compliance with US Government in all areas and in particular financial management, governance structures, risk management and overall structures and systems.

“Indeed I am delighted that KEMSA has been considered as fit for the task having acknowledged its robust infrastructure as a medical logistics provider. I am confident of sustaining Kenya Pharma’s effort to ensure sustainable supply chain service,” said Dr. Munyu.

Kenya Pharma project was established to safeguard the health of people living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya by strengthening the ability to forecast, quantify, procure, store and distribute pharmaceuticals, supplies and equipment needed to provide care and treatment.

Dr John Munyu said that since April 2015, 174 ART Service Delivery Points previously served by Kenya Pharma have been getting their supplies through KEMSA pipelines. “In managing this grand project, KEMSA remains committed to ensure that there is minimum and maximum stock levels for all commodities covered under the program. Existing tracking systems shall be used to ensure that the availability of commodities is assured during the life of the project,” he explained.

KEMSA continues to make a huge difference to the lives of thousands of Kenyans.

“KEMSA looks ahead with great optimism, as we commit to expand and stamp our presence in Kenya and beyond. We will seek to bring new innovative services and products, and without a doubt shall achieve our vision of building a lasting reputation as the trusted experts in global health-related markets”, Dr. Munyu stated in Bulletin.