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UK-Kenya Healthcare Deal, A Wake Up Call To Us

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On 29th July 2021 President Uhuru Kenyatta through a health deal signed between the United Kingdom government and the Kenyan government allowed Nurses and Healthcare workers from Kenya to be able to serve in the UK.

Under the New health scheme, unemployed nurses from Kenya will have a chance to work in the UK’s National Health Service for a fixed period.

And in supporting this decision the President while being interviewed by BBC’s news presenter Sophie Ikenye said the deal was a win win for the unemployed Kenyan nurses and for the hospitals in the United Kingdom.

 “We are producing more nurses than our system can currently absorb, so we are able to find them gainful employment in other countries, I believe this is a win for ourselves,” he said.

The country’s nurses union that is Kenya National Union of nurses (KNUN) elated with this decision through a press conference thanked the President for the move.

Its Secretary General Seth Panyako while welcoming the move said that the deal will help create employment opportunities for approximately 30,000 unemployed nurses in Kenya not forgetting it will also diversify the skills of the nurses to gain experience in International standards of health practice.

“We now urge the President to ensure terms and conditions of unemployment of nurses and health workers in Kenya are improved to conform to the global standards,” Panyako said.

“This can only be achieved by ensuring the collective bargaining agreement for nurses is signed and dully implemented.” he added.

In as much as this is a noble idea, for quite a long time the country has been experiencing a shortage of enough health workers in our public hospitals. In February 2021 for example nurses from Muranga County requested the county government to employ more nurses so as to be able to realize the counties goal in the provision of universal health care.

“Due to the small number of nurses and midwives, service delivery in public hospitals is not up to the standards. We have 800 nurses but there is a shortage of more than 1,000 nurses to enable us provide quality health care,” Salome Kimani, Muranga county nursing officer complained during their celebrations to mark the year of nurses. 

On 6th January 2021, Kisumu Government cracked the whip on striking nurses by stopping salaries of 428 nurses who were on strike. And while defending the move Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o   said health workers had no justification to abandon helpless patients who were visiting hospitals despite the strike.

“Anybody who does not come back to work will have been deemed to have voluntarily abandoned their position and we shall act accordingly,” Nyongo said.

The nurses went on strike on 7th of December 2020 demanding comprehensive health insurance, free treatment for covid19, promotions among other demands.

With such happenings in the country I am of the opinion that as the government undertakes this good initiative let it also put its energies in staffing public hospitals as situations in most of the hospitals is dire.

Most public hospitals in the country show long queues mostly consisting of patients who arrive at the health facilities early but end up being treated late due to the shortage of enough healthcare providers.

According to the Secretary general Kenya National Union of Nurses Seth Panyako, Kenya has approximately 30,000 unemployed nurses with  hospital wards  being run on ratios of 1 nurse to between 40 and 70 patients.

The lack of government to address this shortage has led to a number of nurses to seek employment oversees preferably United Kingdom Canada and even the United States of America, Most of them leaving in droves due to better conditions abroad.

“We currently have a health system compromised so much that our people’s health is declining. Kenyans have the right to move like anyone else. Let us not block the opportunity for people who wish to move but also let us encourage people to stay.’ Head of Kenya’s National nurses association then Luke Samba Kodambo was quoted.

Professor Macharia Munene, a Professor of History and International Relations while delving into this UK Kenya health deal debate said the deal was long-overdue.

“There is nothing wrong in giving the British some foreign aid, they are the ones who keep on telling us that they are giving us foreign aid, now we will be giving them aid through our nurses,… and yes we have been having challenges in our country in terms of providing jobs, so if there are jobs available for our workers then why not, in fact the deal will greatly help the country especially with the foreign remittances from Kenyan’s abroad.” he said.

There are 894 Kenyans working across all roles in the National Health Service (NHS) in England hence making Kenyans the 30th largest nationality group in the NHS.




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