A new report by the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), which carried out an audit of the number of doctors in public facilities, indicated the number of doctors has dropped to 3,956 serving more than 40 million Kenyans, many of who cannot afford the cost of services in private health facilities.
According to the World Health Organisation, Kenya should have at least 83,442 doctors in line with the minimum recommended ratio of 230 doctors per every 100,000 people.
"The country has always had shortages of doctors in public facilities since independence. But things have worsened significantly in the last few years. It is now a full-blown crisis," KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga said.
The report, compiled by Dr Ouma, partly attributed the shortage to mass resignations as doctors seek better terms of service in the private sector and other countries.
Political interference, tribalism, nepotism and other administrative anomalies within counties have also fuelled the exodus of doctors.
"At least 2,000 doctors have resigned from public health facilities in the last two years due to frustrations over pay and working conditions. This has further worsened the shortage of doctors turning it into a crisis," Ouma added.
The report also indicated that the shortage has been heightened by reluctance of many counties to employ doctors despite the biting shortages. They attribute this anomaly to low budgetary allocations from the National Government.
"Only one third of all doctors registered and practising in Kenya work for the public service. Most facilities are either managed by clinical officers (doctor assistants) and or nurses who are most often limited in skills and training to deal with various diseases," he said. The few training institutions, inadequate funding of medical training have also contributed significantly to the shortage.