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Union wants state to employ graduates as public health officers

 KEHPHPU Secretary General Brown Ashira (right) leads members in demanding the employment of degree holders as PHOs. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Kenya Environmental Health and Public Health Practitioners Union (KEHPHPU) has petitioned the government to employ degree holders as public health officers (PHOs).

The union, through its Secretary General, Brown Ashira, claimed that diploma holders were being prioritised over graduates.

Ashira accused the Ministry of Health of not paying the practitioners risk allowances like their colleagues in other cadres since 2013.

The union secretary general who spoke at Kakamega County Polytechnic while conducting a public health advocacy for members said the government has neglected PHOs and challenged Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha to intervene and ensure they have adequate staff to enhance their work.

“It is a pity that the Health Ministry has chosen not to employ public health officers and technicians who have university degrees, including those specialising in areas such as food science,” said Ashira.

“Let the government employ public health officers the way teachers and police officers are employed without fail,” he added.

He noted that the national and county governments have not employed or replaced public health officers who have either retired or died.

“The gap is huge, and yet we have qualified practitioners in the country. Let the government employ sufficient staff in the sector to improve healthcare services,” he said.

Ashira said the shortage of PHOs has led to challenges in the health sector, some of which have caused deaths that could have otherwise been prevented.

The union also wants the Ministry to employ all ‘public health interns’ and ensure they are paid.

“This country has lacked a defensive voice for a long time, and as public health and technicians, we are here to affirm our presence on the negotiating table,” said Ashira. 

He regretted that the government has not been financing public health, yet it is the only cadre delivering preventive and promotive healthcare.

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