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Nakhumicha defends plans to end health crisis

Health CS Susan Nakhumicha. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha told Parliament that the government has put in place measures to address the health crisis occasioned by the ongoing medics' strike.

The CS appeared before the National Assembly plenary to answer questions and said the government is ready to dialogue with doctors on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

She told MPs the ministry is participating in the Whole-of-Nation-Approach discussions to reach a solution to the crisis threatening to cripple the health sector.

She said the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection has appointed three conciliators to guide the negotiations.

“The court-appointed Whole-of-Nation-Approach being led by the Head of Public Service to bring together both levels of government and entities to the dispute with a view of seeking solutions, is ongoing,” said Nakhumicha.

Responding to a question by Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi on timelines to which the CBC signed in 2017 between the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacist and Dentist Union (KMPDU) and the government will be fully implemented, she said the ministry has requested Sh267 million to clear postgraduate registrars' fee arrears.

The CS said the ministry has posted all medical interns with effect from April 2, 2024, based on revised rates by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and they ought to have reported to their Internship Centre by April 15, 2024 as a medium-term measure.

“The Ministry of Health has requested the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to advise on the demand by Kenya Union Clinical Officers to have risk allowance increased from Sh3,000 to Sh15,000 and requested the Public Service Commission to review the clinical officers' career progression guidelines,” she said.

Nakhumicha said they have written to the medical laboratory officers to meet the criteria set for recognition of a union including form S3, since they do not have a recognition agreement with the government.

She told Parliament that the ministry has facilitated the payment of basic salary arrears accrued by the national government arising from the 2017-2021 CBA and provided grants and scholarships for eligible postgraduate medical officers based on an immediate service-need basis and comprehensive medical insurance to the doctors at the national government level.

She said in the Financial Year 2023/2024, the ministry posted 4,156 medical interns in July 2023 at a cost of Sh4.3 billion and they are due to complete their internship in June 2024, while the government has secured Sh2.3 billion to post 3,759 medical interns at SRC advisory rates.

Wanyonyi sought to know steps taken to end the strike to which Nakhumicha said the government has taken short-term and long-term measures to address the problem.

“The ministry has requested SRC to advise on the demand by Kenya Union of Clinical Officers to have risk allowance increased from Sh3,000 to Sh15,000 as one of the stop-gap measures,” she said.

The CS revealed that the ministry is in the process of developing a Human Resources for Health Policy to address all aspects of the sector, the entire spectrum of the value chain from production and supply, internship, regulation, employment, retention, distribution, stock density, skills and mix, motivation and productivity.

She said the ministry will ensure full operationalisation of the Kenya Health Human Resources Advisory Council to execute its mandate with necessary budget provisions.

While appearing before the Senate, Nakhumicha said the ministry, NHIF and the KMPDC have been actively addressing cases of medical fraud.

“The authorities have taken steps to investigate and address instances of medical insurance fraud, efforts have been made to scrutinise practices of healthcare facilities, assess compliance with regulations, and hold to account those involved in fraudulent schemes,” she told the Senate.

Responding to a question by Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda, Nakhumicha said there are ongoing investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and Directorate of Criminal Investigations involving 10 healthcare providers currently suspended by NHIF board.

She said the decision to repeal the NHIF Act, 1998 and enactment of the Social Health Insurance (SHI) Act, 2023 is a strategic move to strengthen regulatory frameworks and enhance oversight mechanisms.

“As we collectively strive to uphold the integrity of the healthcare system and protect the welfare of patients and insurance beneficiaries, I encourage continued collaboration among stakeholders, effective enforcement of regulations and accountability,” she said.

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