Central Kenya counties want the national government to take over payment of salaries for doctors on study leave, saying they cannot afford to keep such medics on the payroll.
In the proposal, the counties say they have had to pay doctors who are away for as long as six years.
The Nation learnt that the proposal is under review by a task force constituted by Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki.
This comes at a time when counties have been complaining about shortage of manpower at key hospitals.
Kirinyaga County government has already dismissed two doctors who went on study leave without the county's authorisation.
Health executive Agnes Gachoki said the county declined to approve the study leave sought by eight doctors owing to a shortage of manpower.
“There are 26 doctors on study leave. We are stretched, as it is. We wrote to their union leaders and the respective universities requesting a deferment of their studies until the batch on leave resumes work,” Dr Gachoki said.
This led to friction between a section of doctors and their employer, resulting in dismissal of two doctors who proceeded on leave without authorisation.
Dr Gachoki, who represents the Council of Governors at the health task force, said counties are bearing a big burden that should be shouldered by the national government.
“During their studies, these doctors serve Kenyatta National Hospital, which is under the national government, yet are paid full salaries by counties.
"Some take up to six years and usually never return to their work stations after the studies. We are paying them for doing nothing,” she said.
A spot check revealed that the situation is similar in most Central region counties, with many hospitals grappling with low staffing.
In Nyeri County, for instance, more than 50 doctors are on study leave. County health services chief officer Newton Wambugu said this has led to an unprecedented shortage.
“We are paying these doctors, so it is hard to employ new ones, he said.
In Murang’a County, 39 doctors are on study leave. Health executive Joseph Mbai termed the situation unsustainable.
Laikipia, too, has a similar case.
The health task force is proposing a system of training where doctors will be trained in the counties they work for.
Dr Gor Goody, Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union Central Region branch secretary, said the union supports this proposal.