What you need to know:
- After a year of piloting the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme in Isiolo, Kisumu, Machakos and Nyeri, the government was set to roll out the programme to other parts of the country.
- The UHC dream however, like everything else right now, has been put on hold due to the coronavirus.
- The lack of an organised structure such as a health service commission highlights the need for a revamped system for human resources for the public health sector.
This year was meant to be a big deal for Kenya in terms of health.
After a year of piloting the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme in Isiolo, Kisumu, Machakos and Nyeri, the government was set to roll out the programme to other parts of the country.
With UHC, every person, irrespective of where they live and their socioeconomic status, has access to good quality health services without having to go through any financial hardship.
With the rollout of UHC programme, Kenyans would be able to access services almost freely in government facilities.
The UHC dream however, like everything else right now, has been put on hold due to the coronavirus.
Late last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the release of Sh1 billion from the UHC kitty for the recruitment of additional health workers to support the management of the coronavirus.
The President directed the Health ministry, county governments and the Public Service Commission (PSC) to expedite the recruitment process.
Since then, there has been a whirlwind of events that has led to aggrieved health workers complaining of delays in the employment of medics.
The chairman of the Council of Governors, Wycliffe Oparanya, asked Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and the PSC Chairman Stephen Kirogo to immediately call off the exercise and allow counties do it.
The ministry finally relented and asked the County Public Service Board to take over, but there are still no additional medics working on the frontline.
This lack of cohesion and proper management of health workers in the country shows why Kenya needs a health service commission (HSC). At a time when the country needs medics, there should be no back and forth.
Human resources are a critical pillar of any health system.
A HSC would be tasked with registering all trained workers and addressing poor staff distribution.
The commission would mirror the Teachers Service Commission. It would also ensure that counties that have few health workers because of their geographical locations do not suffer a crisis.
The lack of such an organised structure highlights the need for a revamped system for human resources for the public health sector. Such a system should ensure equitable distribution, effective deployment, motivation and retention of health workers.
At a time of such a global crisis as the coronavirus pandemic, the last thing Kenya needs is fighting over who employs medics and who pays them.
Perhaps it’s time for the government to sort out this issue once and for all.