• Wonders how it is that the government has money to pay community health volunteers but can't pay nurses.
• Says nurses outnumber doctors at a ratio of 20:1 and cannot, therefore, be dismissed in the implementation of UHC.
Universal health coverage will remain a pipe dream if nurses’ welfare is not improved, a World Bank official has said.
Lead health specialist in Africa Dr Khama Rogo said nurses sit at the centre of the health sector and are pivotal in achieving UHC.
But the profession is slowly dying in Africa as nurses struggle to juggle their low-paying jobs and their families, he said.
“Leaders need to understand that someone who wakes up at night to go look after people who are bleeding, others who can’t breathe, can't be expected to give a report in the morning, smile and take their kids to school,” Rogo said.
He was addressing the National Nurses Association of Kenya annual Scientific Conference in Murang’a town on Wednesday.
"It is no wonder that it has become so easy for nurses and doctors to go on strike and compete with politicians," Rogo said.
Out of the 90,000 nurses in Kenya, the government can only account for 30,000, he said.
This is despite the country having the second-highest number of nurses in East, Central and Southern Africa after South Africa, which has 250,000.
Rogo said nurses outnumber doctors in a ratio of 20:1 and cannot, therefore, be dismissed in the implementation of UHC.
A nurse is the only health-skilled professional who can work from the primary care level to the tertiary care level without help,World Bank lead health specialist in Africa Dr Khama Rogo
He urged the government to meet nurses and discuss how primary healthcare should be run.
For UHC to work, the official said, the government will also have to train nurses in specialised areas such as oncology, cardiovascular, renal and other critical areas.
Rogo said many nurses have abandoned their jobs to further their studies in search of better pay and to climb the job ladder.
"This has exposed patients to the care of community and village health workers who should be working under a nurse. We live in a country where the nurses are jobless but we have money to pay village health workers who should not work alone,” he said.
The government should instead look for ways to ensure nurses at the primary care level, which should be the focus of UHC, are well remunerated, Rogo said.
He urged nurses to form a strong united group that will task the leadership to improve their work environment.
Rogo said it is time for nurses to demonstrate their leadership, impact and skills, especially after the government picked health as one of its key development pillars.
“A nurse is the only health-skilled professional who can work from the primary care level to the tertiary care level without help,” he noted.
Rogo said the nurses' organisation should organise itself such that any institution seeking nurses comes to them for help.
NNAK president Alfred Obuya faulted county governments for employing nurses on contract.
He said it is pitiful that some nurses are being paid Sh20,000 without a gratuity and cannot access the same services they provide when they need them.
Obuya said the Health Human Resource department should be reverted to the national government.
Stakeholders should also find amicable ways to make the Health Service Commission a reality, the nurses' president said.
But parliamentary Health committee chairperson Sabina Chege said such a move would require a referendum.
She said the Health Act provides for an agency that brings together all health professionals that can be used to champion their interests.
Edited by R.Wamochie