Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kenyan hospitals facing acute staff shortage

By GATONYE GATHURA gathura@ke.nationmedia.com

The government is facing an acute shortage of staff in its hospitals mainly at the lower levels like mortuary attendants, drivers and cooks and then again at the ranks of senior medical personnel officers.

This has resulted into poor delivery of services in an estimated 254 facilities falling at district and provincial hospitals, according to an analysis of the country’s health sector human resources.

The Ministry of Medical Services says it is facing a challenge to retain workers caused by resignations, desertion and death.

“Within one year for example, from July 2008 to June 2009, the ministry lost 875 workers. Of this, 426 resigned while 204 died,” says the Human Resource Development Report which is prepared by the government.

Replacing this number alone will cost the government Sh600 million in a period of three years. A go ahead to fill the positions has been given by the Ministry of State for Public Service which will be done in three phases starting in July.

Within the same period, the ministry will fill some 1,977 senior level medical personnel positions to strengthen the management of its medical facilities.

To attract and retain staff, the government plans to offer medical personnel better financial packages sweetened by what it calls extraneous allowances.

The proposal to pay the allowances has already been approved and some Sh3.7 billions have being added to the three year programme.

Four years ago the President directed the Ministry of Health to recruit 6,000 personnel to ease the shortage of workers.

The recruitment has been going on with the third phase of 750 recruits expected later in the year. The fourth and last phase of recruitment will fall in the year next financial year.

To further portray the ministry as a good employer, it paying all arrears owed to officers promoted in the last few years by 2013.

One reason for job desertion, indicates the report, is the stagnation of workers at middle level job groups, but starting from this year some 6,359 officers will be promoted. Within the next four years some 9,000 officers among this cadre will have been promoted.

The other problem dogging the ministry according to the report is an accumulated Sh1.6 billion of pending bills for the last three years mostly for drug supplies.

“The sector plans to clear the pending bills as well as ensure prompt payments to avoid accumulation of pending bills in future,” says the report.

The main reasons for the pending blils, the report indicates is lack of liquidity or the monies had not been provided for.