Prioritise human resources in Ruto plan to build a strong health system – Business Daily
Health workers at the Kenyatta National Hospital protest during a past industrial action. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG
Like in all other continents, the Covid-19 pandemic caught Africa unawares, exposing glaring gaps and long-ignored risks within the continent’s health systems — from weak primary healthcare to overreliance on medical imports, inadequate human resources for health (HRH) and weak social protection programmes.
A study in Kenya on the pandemic’s impact elucidates disruption in health services delivery, problems in importation of Covid-19 health products for local use as well as a severe workload burden, anxiety, and stigma among health workers. It is, therefore, encouraging to see widespread calls for more financing, reform of global governance for health-related crises and fresh thinking around global public health. Without strong health systems, the impact of a pandemic is gloomy, and we can use Covid-19 to make this succinct: preventable mortalities, at least 5,600 cumulative fatalities as at end of September 2022 in Kenya, as well as uncertain livelihood of at least two million already mapped vulnerable households.
In his maiden speech, President William Ruto pledged to make the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) a social health insurance provider, streamline procurement of health products, deploy an integrated health information system and to provide adequate HRH at all healthcare levels. Achieving these further builds Kenya’s capacity for pandemic preparedness. The HRH aspect is still a sore thumb. Kenya has a doctor ratio of 1:16000, against a WHO recommended one of 1:1000. Against this backdrop, some counties have shunned recruitment of doctors for several years now. Pharmacists and dental surgeons employed in near-zero numbers in public hospitals.
In fact, those counties that employ engage the doctors on temporary and thralldom terms thus never retain them. This denies patients these critical skills that would otherwise improve population health. Our prescription of a Health Service Commission seems to has fallen on deaf ears. With the focus on the building physical infrastructure, the so called ‘brick and mortar model’, little consideration has been put into having an efficient workforce.
The writer is the National Secretary General and CEO at Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists & Dentists’ Union (KMPDU).