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We use shortcuts to treat you due to staff shortage, doctors admit in shocking report

By | September 30th 2010

By Elizabeth Mwai

Health workers have admitted using shortcuts while treating patients to cope with a heavy workload, a report shows.

The damning report says this is due to an acute shortage and understaffing in most public hospitals.

It indicates that health workers avoid some recommended procedures perceived to be "time consuming" and spend less time with the patients.

"Participants also reported heavy workload and long working hours resulting from staff shortages," says the USaid report released on Wednesday.

The ‘Performance Needs Assessment Report’ singled out what the health workers termed "burn outs" as a serious obstacle to quality healthcare.

Staffing shortage

It found out that staffing shortages, lack of supervisory support led to health workers taking up multiple roles, including administrative tasks and patient handling.

This, the report said, could explain the many cases of misdiagnosis of patients’ illness, despite technological advancement.

Speaking at Panafric Hotel in Nairobi, USaid Project Director Meshack Ndolo said Kenya had limited resources despite a huge disease burden.

He called for a vibrant, effective and efficient health system.

He said the country requires innovative ways to use the available human resources for optimal benefits.

"How do we improve our health workers’ performance so that Kenyans do not suffer in the hands of the people they entrust their lives with?" asked Mr Ndolo.

Last week, Medical Services Director Francis Kimani faulted doctors for treating malaria casually, resulting in preventable deaths.

And with nearly 34,000 deaths occurring annually from malaria, the Government has now warned that doctors will be answerable for any death from the disease, while a patient is in hospital.

Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o in a speech read on his behalf by Assistant Minister Kambi Kazungu, expressed concern that the country may not achieve the Millennium Development Goals due to diseases.

He said although they are curable, malaria, respiratory infections, skin diseases, diarrhoea, and intestinal worms remain leading causes of death.

Proper coordination and training

Prof Nyong’o noted that performance and productivity of health workers are influenced by factors like proper co-ordination and training.


"There is need for clear job description, adequate supervision, and good working environment, resources and equipment," said Nyong’o.

The report showed only about 50 per cent of medical doctors, registered and enrolled nurses, midwives, and medical laboratory assistants had written job descriptions.

"Some reported they were not clear on their roles although they had a general understanding of what they were expected to do," said the report.

The health workers said there is less agreement between their expected role and their actual duties.

The data was collected from 876 health workers in 97 health facilities in 16 districts in all the eight provinces between last year and this year.

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