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Health sector deserving of a commission

By Megan Anyango | December 1st 2020 at 15:00:00 GMT +0300

There is a looming strike by doctors and other health services personnel. While the country has seen its fair share of labour withdrawal by one cadre of medical personnel or another, this time it is different – it is graver.

The medics are threatening to go on strike at a time the country is struggling to contain a health pandemic.

It is unfortunate that some 1,484 Kenyans have lost their lives since March that Covid-19 has been active within our borders. This has happened while all our health professionals are on full-time duty. One shudders when they imagine what the fatality rate could be when the medics down their tools.

It does not have to this way though. The medics may seem callous, selfish and insensitive contemplating withdrawing their services during the country’s most critical hour of need. But it is not hard to empathise with their plight looking at how their professional human resources needs are mismanaged in Kenya.

It is, therefore, a welcome move that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has floated the creation of a national health commission to address the medic’s challenges.

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Though devolution of services was and still is, a good idea, there is little logic why teachers, for instance, should have their human resources needs centralised while doctors and nurses have to contend with the often ill-prepared county governments.

In its final version, the BBI report recommended a Health (Amendment) Bill, which “seeks to amend the Health Act to establish the Health Services Commission. The commission shall make recommendations to the national government on national policies for management of healthcare workers; monitor implementation of national policies for management of health care workers by county governments and recommend appropriate action; and set and regularly review norms and standards on health matters.”  Things can only get better.

This should implore Kenyans to support and ensure that the BBI Bill successfully goes through all the due processes and is constitutionalised, especially getting the required endorsement at the imminent referendum.

You see, the Building Bridges Initiative is a product of the Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his former political competitor Raila Odinga that took place in March 2018. Before that, there was the Big Four Agenda of food security, affordable housing, manufacturing, and affordable healthcare for all. This was, and still is the roadmap towards a better Kenyan future, but which might never have been achievable without peace and unity.

Peace and unity in Kenya can be described as the fuel which will assist in attaining the heights that Uhuru and his government set for themselves.

Sadly, in the past, we know what happens to any well-laid plans when there is violence and disunity. Everybody suffers.

That is why, from the beginning of Uhuru’s presidency, and especially during this second tenure, he has reached out to his opponents with an outstretched hand in a spirit of peace and unity. This example has calmed the stormy waters of ethnic and tribal mistrust which is always bubbling below the surface in Kenya.

This is an opportunity all of us to play our part in ensuring that our medical staff and well prepared for a health pandemic, our teachers for educational challenges, our security agencies for external and internal aggression and Kenyans for general prosperity and higher quality of life.

-Ms Anyango is a social commentator. [email protected]

Doctors' Strike Health Commission BBI
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