NAIROBI, Kenya, May 22 – Health Secretary James Macharia took over office on Wednesday morning with a promise to deal with the demands of doctors and nurses on their remuneration and working conditions once and for all.
Speaking to reporters at Afya House, Macharia explained that many professionals are leaving the country in search of better jobs resulting in brain drain which in turn adversely affects the economy.
He emphasised the need for them to be comfortable within the country as this will attract more expertise.
“We really have to avoid nurses and doctors leaving this country. You go to any part of the world you find Kenyan nurses. In Botswana, there are a lot of nurses from Kenya. I was told that the best nurses in Australia come from here. You go to the US, they have green cards and the reason why they are leaving the country is because the pay is not adequate,” he pointed out.
“In addition to that, we really have to ensure that they are working in safe and acceptable working conditions and not just the pay.”
He also revealed that he will hold discussions with doctors and nurses to reach a compromise.
“You must make sure that after you review all the blocks in the health care system, there is enough money left on the table to look after the nurses and doctors and also other health professionals,” he said.
“We shall be engaging in dialogue with them to know what their requirements and demands are. If they are reasonable, there is no reason why we cannot actually oblige to what they are asking for subject to availability of funds,” he added.
He further indicated that he will seek funding from donor organisations as the monies allocated to the health sector are inadequate.
“It is public knowledge that the Health Ministry got Sh34.7 billion, so clearly there is a gap and that is why we have to work very closely with development partners. My first meeting when I came here on Monday was with the World Bank to discuss how they can supplement the limited budget that we have. Currently they are giving us about $400 million every year but they can do a lot more,” he said.
“We shall also be talking to other development partners. In Naivasha yesterday we had DFID and UNICEF whom we really need to chip in. But for them to be comfortable with our requests we need to show accountability and transparency in the use of their funds,” he added.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacist and Dentist Union in the meantime expressed its willingness to engage in dialogue with the Health Secretary so that issues of doctors’ pay and working conditions may be dealt with.
Chairman Victor Ng’ani told Capital FM News that despite progress being made after the renegotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the previous minister of health, a lot more still needs to be done.
He further urged the Health Secretary to ratify the renegotiated CBA so that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission which received the recommendation in February this year may implement it.
He stated that the issue of infrastructure development and supply of adequate medical equipment to hospitals also needs to be considered.