FIGHTING FOR HEALTH WORKERS

Form health service commission to heal Kenya, says HR lobby

The commission will set certain standards that must be met by the government and other stakeholders

In Summary

• Health workers have been championing for thw commission for almost a decade now

•  Alarm over the working conditions of health workers in the country.

IHRM chairman Jospeh Onyango and acting executive director Irene Kinacia at PrideInn Hotel in Shanzu, Mombasa
CONCERNED IHRM chairman Jospeh Onyango and acting executive director Irene Kinacia at PrideInn Hotel in Shanzu, Mombasa
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

A health service commission will go a long way in addressing the many challenges medics in the country face, the Institute of Human Resource Management has said.

IHRM chairman Joseph Onyango on Friday said the commission, which health workers have been championing for for almost a decade now, will be the first step towards a healthy nation.

“There must be a specialist body to address human resources for the health sector. This has largely been proposed including in the BBI report, which we are saying should be implemented. Establish a health commission,” said Onyango.

Speaking during a three-day talent summit on how to manage talent in work places, Onyango expressed alarm over the working conditions of health workers in the country.

He described the conditions as heart-breaking and demotivating.

“The situation is heart-breaking as some of you have seen, with our MPs breaking down, and quite demotivating to the health workers especially at a time when the country is battling this second wave of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic,” said Onyango.

He noted that health workers have remained steadfast and committed to their allegiance to serve despite the difficult situation brought by the Covid-19 pandemic since March.

He said the together with the health workers, especially the nurses, doctors and clinical officers, the human resource managers are struggling to balance serving the nation, keeping their jobs amid poor health conditions and providing for and protecting their families.

“We are alarmed by what is going on with our health workers,” said Onyango.

The IHRM chair said as human resource managers, they need to maintain a talent pipe and encourage people towards certain professions.

“We are trying as much as possible to advise government and institutions, including the KMPDU and officials of the various hospitals, how to best manage their staff,” said Onyango.

He said Kenya cannot afford to have doctors dying in the course of their duty especially during a pandemic.

So far, at least 2,000 health workers have been infected with Covid-19.

Thirty have so far died and of these, 10 were specialist doctors.

Paediatric resident doctor at the Kenyatta National Hospital, Ngala Mwendwa, on Friday said a HSC is key to solving most of their woes.

The commission will set certain standards that must be met by the government and other stakeholders, including having a medical cover for all health workers.

“We have been neglected by the government. That’s no lie,” said Mwendwa during a talk show on NTV.

He added,“It is sad that you providing a service yet at the same time when you fall sick, that service can’t get to you because you do not have a medical cover.”

He noted that the doctors who have succumbed to Covid-19 had a way out but that way had been blocked by the government through non-provision of basic safety gear like Protective Personal Equipment (PPEs).

Onyango said the disbursement of money meant for medical cover for health workers must be streamlined.

The money is usually given out to the county governments.

“New employees recruited by counties have usually complained that they are not registered to any recognised medical schemes but are actually forced into commercial schemes that are not effective,” Onyango said.

He said it has become a tradition that these monies are usually released after a protracted war with the medics demanding their rights.

Payment of NHIF and other dues should be done in a very standard manner, he noted.

The Public Service Commission had an elaborate scheme of service and a career progression guideline for health workers.

“Our fear is that this is not being adhered to especially by the county governments as employers,” said Onyango.

The human resource practitioners expressed concern that a strike notice has already been issued by healthworkers.

Onyango said the tripartite stakeholders should work to avert this strike, which he noted would be a major crisis if allowed to take place.

“The payment of salaries, which is in arrears, and the provision of comprehensive medical cover will avert the strike. But for the future, we need the Health Service Commisison,” said Onyango.

Mwendwa said Kenya’s ratio of doctors to patients is 1:16,000 against the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 1:300.

This, he said, while there are about 2,000 trained doctors who are still unemployed.

“We have the resources. It is implementation that is the problem,” he said.