Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha has pleaded with doctors to be patient as the Ministry of Health finds a lasting solution to the placement of medical interns.

The CS said the planned doctors' strike will not solve the medical interns' problem that has persisted for years.

"My call to the unions is that they should allow discussions and conversation to take place because there are many things to be discussed, and a strike will not resolve it," said Nakhumicha.

"Let them give us time so that we address this issue. I know they are anxious about posting, but after we solve the outstanding issues, and bring everyone on board, we will be able to communicate to them," she added.

She argued that posting interns requires engagements with respective ministries and stakeholders namely; the National Treasury, Public Service Commission, Salaries and Remuneration Commission and the Ministry of Education, among others.


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The CS said county governments should also be engaged as health is fully devolved. 

She defended herself saying the Ministry of Health is 'a small stakeholder' in the posting of interns.

"A solution will only be found when we sit at the table with all stakeholders," said Nakhumicha.

On Monday, doctors issued the government with a one-week strike notice to post intern doctors, failure to which they will paralyse healthcare services. 

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) wants the ministry to address promotions, medical cover and payment of postgraduate fees.

The union is also demanding to have doctors working in their respective counties and the Ministry of Health given study leave and pension.

The KMPDU Deputy Secretary General Dennis Miskellah said most medical interns are at home, even after completing their studies, with a lack of commitment by the ministry to post them.

There are at least 1,215 medical interns awaiting posting.

Dr Miskella said a number of interns have not been posted for over six months while others have been waiting for more than a year.

He said on January 22, the union held a meeting with the Ministry, and it was agreed that the medical interns would be posted by February, which is yet to be fulfilled.

The CS said the Public Health Principal Secretary Mary Muthoni held a meeting with union officials to seek a lasting solution to their grievances. 

"I assure the doctors that we shall find a solution, this matter is not so big," said Nakhumicha.

She was speaking after flagging off specialised vaccine storage equipment to 47 counties at the ministry.

The CS said the internship is not just about posting medical interns, but other elements should be looked into, like equipping Level 3, 4 and 5 facilities where they shall be posted.

"Internship is not just a matter of posting interns, the facilities must have medical doctors who will supervise the interns, the hospitals must have equipment that interns will use and health commodities," she said.

"There are many things that must be prepared and be available for them (interns) to acquire the knowledge required during their internship program," she added.

Nakhumicha however admitted that there has been a delay in posting of medical interns

"I want to acknowledge and take responsibility that there is a delay, but I want to state that the delay is not only being experienced today. This issue has been here. Internship has been an issue. We are taking our time because we don't want to get a temporary solution to post, because once we post now they will demand payment," she said.

"It doesn't make sense for us to post without making payment. It doesn't make sense for us to post without ensuring that other things that I have spoken about are available. We are going to resolve this thing for once. We want to ensure it is seamless as it can be."

The CS reiterated that one of the main pillars of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is health workers, and there is no way the ministry can ignore the medical interns and other cadres in health.

She said the ministry is determined to ensure sufficient health workers including the interns to be able to provide UHC.