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Public health PS defends government plan to export healthcare workers

The Principal Secretary of the State Department for Public Health Mary Muthoni has defended the government’s plan to export qualified health professionals to other Countries which she said will ease unemployment in the Country.

Muthoni said the plan seeks to accommodate and offer a lifeline to thousands of graduating health professionals’ especially nurses from local colleges and universities.

The PS said each year over 20,000 well-trained nurses graduate from the Kenya Medical Training Colleges and other local institutions in the Country with only a handful of them employed locally.

In addition, the PS said current data has necessitated the move to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with foreign countries to export qualified personnel.

So far, Kenya has signed an MOU on health partnership with the United Kingdom [UK] which will see a total of 20,000 nurses sent to UK hospitals by 2025 highlighting local nurses’ competitive edge.

Consequently, the government last year signed a bilateral labor agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which seeks to regulate the export of skilled workforce to the Gulf Nation where 2500 nurses are set to benefit.

Muthoni dismissed the Council of Governors’ concerns over the high number of health professionals leaving the Country noting that the country has more qualified nurses than those absorbed and the move will not jeopardize local healthcare services.

“The government strives to ensure that the range of trained healthcare professionals are compatible and adhere to both local and international health standards while discharging their duties,” said the PS.

Speaking in Naivasha during a stakeholder meeting to develop the Quality of Care Bill [2024], Muthoni said the government is committed to overhauling the healthcare system to address the existing gaps in affording and accessing quality healthcare services.

The PS said the bill which touches on the core mandate of the Social Health Insurance Act [SHIA] will address the underlying quality of healthcare services, products offered, and personnel.

In addition, the bill which will come into force in the next three months will see the fixing of flagged dilapidated health and diagnostic equipment and the deployment of qualified personnel which will help lower the mortality rate in local facilities.

Muthoni said Ministry of Health officials are currently holding public participation forums on the Social Health Insurance General regulations across the Country before it’s rolled out in the coming months.

Under the Social Health Insurance Act, of 2023, the government seeks an overhaul of the current National Health Insurance Fund that has previously been plagued by corruption claims worth billions of shillings.

The SHI Act establishes three new funds which include Primary Healthcare Fund, Chronic and Critical Illness Fund as well as Social Health Insurance Emergency Fund all geared towards easing access and financing of healthcare to every citizen.

The government has proposed a cap of 2.75 percent cut of an employee’s gross salary and a minimum contribution of Sh300 for low-income earners to fund and accelerate the rollout of the noble initiative.

To ensure every citizen boards the Universal Health Coverage train, the government will cater for medical bills for the most vulnerable members of society including the elderly.

“The successful implementation of this initiative seeks to provide affordable, available, and quality healthcare services for all citizens,” said the PS.

By Erastus Gichohi

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