Kenya is currently grappling with a shortage of 42,800 health workers, a state of affairs that stands in the way of efforts to ensure universal healthcare.
This is according to Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, who said the number of medics is below the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of 23 workers per 10,000 people.
Currently, there are 63,000 health workers including 20,981 nurses, 3,284 clinical officers, 2,286 medical officers, 405 dentists, 1104 pharmacists, 293 radiologists and 22 radiation protection personnel.
“There are 34,625 officers in other cadres. This is below the World Health Organization recommendation of 23 workers per 10,000 population which would require a total of 105,800,” she said.
The government, she said, aimed at increasing the health worker density from five per 10,000 people in 2013 to seven per 10,000 in 2016.
“The number has significantly improved to six per 10,000 population. Measures to address the gaps include scaling up recruitment of health workers, reviewing health worker salaries, benefits, and strengthening human resource policies and practices,” the CS said.
Ms Kariuki said substantial investment in health workers' training at medical colleges and other tertiary institutions was necessary to address gaps in the sector.
The CS added that collaboration with partner States was also necessary to bring in specialised skills, alluding to a recent deal with Cuba to bring in medics to ease burden at the counties.
President Uhuru Kenyatta recently signed a deal allowing 100 Cuban specialist doctors to be stationed at county hospitals.
The move has received mixed reactions, with the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPPDU) demanding the recruitment of more than 1,200 local doctors before importation of medics from Cuba.
As part of the pact, Kenya will also send 50 doctors to the Caribbean island nation for specialised training.
Ms Kariuki moved to reassure local health workers that the doctors from Cuba were specialists and not general practitioners.
“We are careful not to crowd the place with general doctors. We are importing specialists such as oncologists, urologist, and nephrologists but not general practitioners. We must collaborate with counties to strength the human resource,” she said.
The CS was speaking during a Senate health committee forum in Mombasa last week.