Opinion and Analysis

Kenya health system needs urgent reforms

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It has become difficult for the government to meet the medical needs of a galloping population with its scarce resources. Photo/LIZ MUTHONI

It has become difficult for the government to meet the medical needs of a galloping population with its scarce resources. Photo/LIZ MUTHONI 

By George Wachira

Posted  Wednesday, March 16  2011 at  00:00

Many times we have responded to numerous fund raisers to contribute money to send relatives and friends out to India to receive medical treatment for ailments such as cardiac, renal and cancer, among other diseases.

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South Africa has also been another destination, but most of the traffic is to India.

The feedback we get about India is that treatments are generally affordable and widely available.

Professional expertise and equipment are of the highest calibre and success rate for treatment quite high.

We also understand that the Tanzania equivalent of our NHIF has permanent arrangements with key hospitals in India where Tanzanians are routinely referred to for ailments beyond local expert capacity.

India, we understand, has become the global medical care destination of choice.

Poor equipment

This then begs a number of questions about Kenya where public healthcare is perceived as mostly inadequate in quality and capacity, while private healthcare providers are mostly expensive for the average Kenyan.

Whether public or private, specialised professional expertise and equipment in Kenya are insufficient and where available, fairly expensive.

We must admit that as the population more than doubled over the last three decades, incremental healthcare capacity has neither matched this growth nor sufficiently matched technological sophistication in medical care.

Recent data indicates that Kenya requires 24,000 doctors but it only has 8,000, with only 3,000 of them working in public hospitals, 4,000 in private facilities and 1,000 outside Kenya.

Medical manpower attrition in public hospitals is said to be high and mainly due to low morale, poor pay, and absence of suitable amenities and working environment.

This shortage of doctors cannot be alleviated immediately or within the next few years.

A well coordinated and prioritised national medical manpower development plan is perhaps what is required, if we do not already have one.

It is a catch up game that has become quite urgent and requires collaboration of all players in healthcare provisions.

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