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CS Nakhumicha tells Senate 4,129 medical interns posted to hospitals

 Some of the medical doctors prepare for posting at the Ministry of Health. [Courtesy, MoH]

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha has posted a total 4,129 medical interns to approved public and private hospitals.

Dr Nakhumicha who appeared before the Senate Labour Committee said that the interns comprise of 325 medical officers, 469 pharmacists, 25 dental officers, 506 degree holder clinical officers, 1,930 diploma holder clinical officers and 874 degree holder nurses.

The Health Cabinet Secretary said that her Ministry has also operationalized the National Internship Coordination Committee as defined in the Internship policy for healthcare professionals 2020 and Internship Policy and Guideline 2022, to steer health sector internship programmes.

"It is important to note that the number of universities training healthcare workers has increased significantly over a period, which is good for our increasing population, but the personnel emoluments budget for the Ministry has not increased in tandem to cater for the increasing number of graduate healthcare workers," she said.

The CS noted that the Ministry and the County Public Service Boards recruited the Universal Health Care staff in 2020 at the height of Covid-19 and the country was facing a serious shortage of healthcare workers coupled with the economic disruptions due to the effects of the pandemic.

Nakhumicha said that as the future of the pandemic was unknown and to ensure the healthcare system remained resilient to serve the rising Covid-19 cases, the government offered a call for recruitment of healthcare workers with a stipend of Sh50,000 for diploma holders and Sh 40,000 for certificate holders.

The CS explained that the recruitment of the staff was also aimed at cushioning families who may have not only lost their loved ones, but also suffered job losses due to economic disruptions caused by the pandemic due to fragile social safety nets.

"My Ministry in consultation with the Public Service Commission has renewed contracts of all the UHC Staff, to facilitate the renewal while also in consultation with the county governments, Public Service Commission and the National Treasury conducted an audit of the existing UHC staff to confirm the actual numbers on the ground before a commitment for renewal was undertaken by the counties," she said.

Nakhumicha said that a multi-agency taskforce comprising of the Council of Governors (CoG), County Executive Committee Members for Health representatives, County Public Service Boards representative, Public Service Commission and the National Treasury looked at the current terms and conditions with the purpose of optimizing the programme gains and ensuring value for money.

She revealed that the taskforce is currently looking at the options and strategies for the ultimate transitioning of the UHC staff employment conditions to permanent and pensionable terms at a cost of Sh7.2 billion compared to current allocation of Sh4.2 billion..

CoG represented by Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja said that the county governments through the County Public Service Boards undertook the recruitment and placement of the staff, however the Ministry of Health retained budget for payment of salaries for the UHC staff.

"County governments in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Public Service Commission undertook recruitment of different cadres for a contract period of three years under the UHC programme from April 2020 to May 2023, the recruitment of 9,681 health care workers was informed by gaps identified by county governments and shared to the Ministry of Health," said Sakaja.

The governor said that the CoG was requested to consider absorption of the health workers on permanent and pensionable terms but they informed the Head of Public Service that some issues were to be given due consideration before such a decision is taken.

Sakaja said that the county governments requested that adequate budgetary allocation be availed by the Ministry of Health or the National Treasury to provide for the worker's salaries at prevailing market rates including the attendant employment benefits such as medical insurance and pension.

The governor revealed that CoG summit approved a request from Ministry of Health to renew the contracts for the UHC staff for a further three years under the same terms due to the budget constraints.

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