Alarm over shortage of nurses, doctors and midwives in Kenya

A patient at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital. A new report has found that Kenya falls short on recommended health workforce-to-population ratios. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]
Kenya has gross disparities in the distribution of healthcare professionals. A new report states that Kenya is one of the 36 countries in Africa with a critical shortfall of health personnel which has affected access to quality health services and posed a challenge to achieving the country’s health agenda.

According to the Health Workforce Status Report released yesterday in Nairobi, the ratio of nurses per 10,000 Kenyans varies from as high as 9.7:10,000 in Nairobi to as low as 0.1:10,000 in Mandera. The disparity in doctors distribution is more pronounced as they are concentrated in urban areas. The ratio of doctors per 10,000 population ranged from as high of 9.5:10,000 in Nairobi to as low as 0.8:10,000 in Mandera. Releasing the report, Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu said Mandera is 86 per cent below the national rate while both Wajir and Turkana are at 73 per cent.

“There is a shortage of virtually all cadres of health care workers resulting in poor utilisation of thousands of health facilities for essential services, ranging from ante-natal, delivery, postnatal, infant welfare, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other basic services,” he said.

WHO ratio

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“Majority of Kenya’s health training institutions are concentrated in cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Of the 47 counties, 36 have at least one health training institution.” The 11 counties without any health training institutions are Busia, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Isiolo, Kajiado, Laikipia, Lamu, Marsabit, Mandera, Taita Taveta, Tana River and Wajir. WHO recommends different health worker-to-population ratios for different cadres for optimal delivery of health services. It recommends that 44.5 physicians, nurses and midwives per 10,000 people to meet Strategic Development Goals. The report was compiled by Ministry of Health in collaboration with Emory University, Centre for Disease Control, Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board, Nursing Council of Kenya and Clinical Council of Kenya.

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