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Shortage of nurses main challenge in public health facilities

 NNAK Vice President Denis Mbithi speaks during the Annual National Nurses Association of Kenya conference in Nyeri County. [Purity Mwangi, Standard]

Nurses attending an annual scientific conference have highlighted the shortage of nurses in public hospitals as a key challenge in  Universal Health Care efforts.

National Nurses Association of Kenya Vice President Denis Mbithi said the ratio between the patients and nurses is worrying with an average ward of 40 patients relying on four nurses for services.

“This shortage is exposing our nurses to stress, being overworked and burnout in their working environment,” Mbithi said.

He said though there have been financial constraints, the government should seek ways to address the employment challenge.

“The government should give priority to employing more nurses for quality health services,” Mbithi said.

Mbithi cited that in the medical ward, one nurse should serve at least four patients while in the Intensive Care Unit, one patient should have at least two nurses. 

He was speaking during the Annual National Nurses Association of Kenya conference held at Kagumo Teachers Training College in Nyeri County where more than 2,000 nurses are attending the three-day event.

"The conference's focus is on profiling nurses with evidence-based practice and we want to have a conversation with the leaders to discuss how to support nurses for better health facilities and working environment," he said.

He appealed to the government to embrace the nurse’s scheme of service which will help nurses to progress in terms of promotion.

“We want our nurses to be motivated through the scheme of service that will enable promotions in their work,” he said.

Mbithi noted that the nurses wanted to be involved in universal health coverage, a project by the national government that needed a multi-agency approach.

He insisted though the community health promoters are involved in the programme, nurses should be part of the programme since they have the skill and expertise on health issues.

Mbithi said that nurses comprise 65 per cent of the health workers in health facilities and hence should be actively involved in UHC.

However, he noted that community health promoters should link the patient to the facilities and keep records on the patients they encounter to enable follow-up.

“The nurses want to be advocates of health in the community and to champion the agenda of reforms in health care and sexual reproductive health services affecting teenagers,” Mbithi said.

Nyeri governor Mutahi Kahiga while opening the nurses conference said the role of a nurse in health services cannot be compared by even the doctors and the specialist.

"The nurses perform the majority of the work but their pay is lower as compared to the doctors," he said.

He however noted that the governors should set aside a bigger budget to support the health sector, especially payments.

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