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Fact Checker: Kenya has adequate healthcare workers

By Frankline Sunday | April 24th 2018
H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta at the Presidential Palace in Havana, Cuba

President Uhuru Kenyatta last month signed an agreement to have 100 healthcare workers from Cuba deployed to Kenya during a State visit to the Caribbean nation.

Government reports indicate the 100 healthcare workers will be posted to all the 47 counties, with the first batch expected in the country as early as next month.

The government’s justification for importing the talent is that Kenya’s healthcare system suffers from lack of adequate personnel with Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki putting the shortage at more than 42,000 workers.

Various data sets, however, indicate that the lack of healthcare workers is less alarming than often portrayed.

The World Health Organisation’s recommendation for healthcare workers necessary to deliver essential services for low-income economies is 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 people.

The UN has placed Kenya under the 49 low-income countries considered most at risk to maternal and child mortality with 13 doctors, nurses and midwives per every 10,000 people.

In this regard Kenya ranks alongside Vietnam, below Nigeria and Uganda and above Ghana and Burkina Faso.

However, the ratio has been improving in recent years and data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicates that the country has made significant progress in building capacity for expert medical personnel in the past few years.

The number of registered nurses in Kenya has grown from 35,000 in 2012 to 57,000 in 2016. This has seen the density improve from 86 registered nurses per 10,000 people to 126. This is in addition to 42,900 others currently in training.

 Similar progress has been made in the number of clinical officers that has seen a 10-point increase in the ratio of clinical officers from 28 per every 10,000 Kenyans in 2012 to 38 in 2016.

Overall the number of registered health personnel has nearly doubled from 105,000 in 2012 to 172,000 in 2016 indicating a positive organic growth in specialist capacity.

However, the gap in capacity is created by brain drain. Kenyan healthcare workers are well-trained compared to others in low-income countries but poorly remunerated.

This makes many of them turn to the international healthcare market like North America and Europe where remuneration is much better.

The challenge to lack of capacity in the country’s healthcare market is thus not as a result of inadequate personnel but the government’s unwillingness to improve the terms of healthcare workers in the country.

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