Over 90 per cent of dispensaries and health centres in the county are understaffed, a nurses’ union official has said.
Speaking during the International Nurses Week celebrations at Nkubu Catholic Church yesterday, Kenya National Union of Nurses (Meru chapter) Secretary Nesbitt Mugendi said the shortage had hampered healthcare services.
Mr Mugendi said over 90 per cent of dispensaries and health centres were being managed by only two nurses, which he said was against the “norm”.
“Lack of enough nurses to man our smaller health facilities is a major challenge as we work to provide services to those in need. The county government recently employed 50 nurses but the bulk were deployed at the Level Five hospital,” revealed the official.
“Nurses do a lot of work in providing most of direct patient care. In Meru, we basically need at least four nurses at the dispensaries and health centres as recommended by the Ministry of Health. We have around 170 centres across Meru,” said Mr Mugendi.
Tens of nurses attended the event in Nkubu Town.
County Health Executive Misheck Mutuma conceded there was a shortage of nurses, and attributed it to the increased number of patients.
“We will recruit new personnel, we have captured it in the 2019-2020 budget,” said Mr Mutuma.
In addition to shortage of nurses to run the dispensaries and health centres, MCAs and residents from different sections of Meru decried poor infrastructure.
A good example of the challenges afflicting health centres, he said, was Kathithi Health Centre in Nyaki West, which serves between 3,000 and 4,000 patients a month.
Separately, MCAs led by Assembly Health Committee Chairman Martin Mworia said the centre experiences acute shortage of health officers and support staff.
“Currently the facility has only two support staff, a watchman and a messenger,” said Mr Mworia.
The work environment at Kathithi was also found to be poor, with broken doors and windows.
MCAs Lucy Mukaria, Kimathi Ithibua and Linus Athinya said the challenges at Kathithi were replicated in dispensaries across the county.
“If we are going to offer good services at our health centres there is an urgent need to upgrade them,” said Ms Mukaria.