Hospitals in bid to plug staff shortage

Front view of Kenyatta National Hospital's Accident and Emergency section. Seven public hospitals are set to partner with local universities to offer medical training in a move that could help Kenya plug the biting shortage of qualified personnel in the health sector. File

Seven public hospitals are set to partner with local universities to offer medical training in a move that could help Kenya plug the biting shortage of qualified personnel in the health sector.

The facilities, which have undergone renovation and equipping, are expected to admit their first students in the second half of the year, according to Medical Services minister Anyang’ Nyong’o.

The plan will see Maseno University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kisii University College and Catholic University join the list of institutions offering medical training.

University of Nairobi, Moi University, and Kenya Medical Training College are currently the main institutions offering medical training. Ministry of Health officials say the biggest challenge to meeting human capital needs for the health sector has been lack of hospitals that meet the criteria for training.

Kenya is grappling with a shortage of close to 8,000 medical personnel, a shortfall that has been partly blamed on brain drain and a general failure by local institutions to produce a steady stream of trained personnel. Institutions are not allowed to train medical personnel without affiliation to a recognised hospital.

“We want to upgrade all provincial hospitals to referral status, so that they can deal with most of the cases referred to Kenyatta and Moi referral hospitals. That should enable them to enter into partnerships with universities and offer medical training,” said James ole Kiyapi, the Medical Services permanent secretary.

Health experts have warned that failure to fix the human capital shortfall risks throwing to waste the billions of shillings that the country spends on health every year.

The government plans to spend Sh47 billion on the health sector this year, making it the third largest item in the national budget after education and infrastructure. Under the new arrangement, Nyanza Provincial Hospital, Thika District Hospital and Kisii Level 5 Provincial Hospital will partner with Maseno, JKUAT and Kisii University College respectively to offer courses in clinical medicine.

Catholic University has already signed up an affiliation agreement with Mbagathi and Mathari hospitals, to offer degree programmes in nursing while Outspan Medical College will link up with Nyeri and Karatina hospitals under a partnership that is awaiting the ministry’s approval.

Francis Kimani, the Director of Medical Services, told the Business Daily that to qualify as a training institution, a hospital must have specialists in various medical disciplines and proper equipment.

“The doctors must also have the ability to handle complex health cases on referral from other hospitals,” he said . It is estimated that only 380 new doctors join the workforce annually from Nairobi and Moi universities.

UoN, which has partnered with Kenyatta National Hospital accounts for the bulk of the trainees at 300 with the rest coming from Moi University.
“For a population of close to 40 million people, Kenya should have at least 5000 doctors up from the current number of only 2000. The training facilities should be at least 37,” said Prof Nyong’o.

It is only in the last three years that more players have added medical courses in their education program offering.

The first batch of graduates taking degrees in Medical Laboratory Science and Infectious Disease Diagnosis are expected to join the labour market in 2012 from Kenyatta University, which has partnered with Machakos Provincial Hospital to offer the training.

According to the 2009 Economic Survey, the number of registered medical students increased from 3,761 to 5,814 between 2004/2005 and 2008/2009 academic years.

The increase was attributed to introduction of medical courses at Kenya Methodist University, University of East Africa, Baraton, Aga Khan University and KU.

“We expect to reduce exodus of the medical personnel by training more people such that even is the private sector picks some, we shall retain a huge chunk of them,” said Prof Kiyapi.

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