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Boon for health workers with new c*mmission

Friday, October 23rd, 2020 00:00 | By
Nurses during a past protest at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital after they announced industrial action due to lack of PPEs and poor working conditions. Photo/PD/RAPHAEL MUNGE

Health workers stand to win big after the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposed the establishment of a National Health Service Commission (NHSC) to specifically address their welfare.

The BBI report, officially presented to President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga at Kisii State Lodge yesterday, calls for the amendment of the Health Act to allow the formation of NHSC.

This effectively means the love-hate relationship between health workers and county governments could soon come to an end since all personnel issues will be handled by the commission, if the BBI report is adopted.

According to the report, the commission will comprise the Cabinet Secretary for Health, who will be the chairman, two representatives nominated by the Council of Governors and one person nominated by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Health regulatory bodies and trade unions representing healthcare workers established under an Act of Parliament will also be required to nominate one representative each.

Faith-based organisations involved in healthcare will also have a representative. 

There will be two persons with expertise and knowledge in matters related to human resource management in healthcare; competitively recruited and appointed by the Cabinet Secretary for Health, the report says.

Transfer from counties

The formation of NHSC will herald transfer of health sector personnel from county governments to the commission.

A patients’ bill of rights will also be formulated to promote quality health care in the country.

In the proposed structure of office, there shall be a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who will be an ex-officio member and secretary to the commission, the report proposes.

The commission will basically be in charge of management of healthcare workers. 

The NHSC will also be required to monitor implementation of national policies for management of healthcare workers by county governments and recommend appropriate action.

It will also take control of hiring, training, career development, schemes of service and general welfare of health workers.

The BBI has also given NHSC powers to monitor and approve inter-county transfer of healthcare workers, set the norms and standards, accredit health institutions and ensure national distribution of highly skilled healthcare workers. 

It also has powers to summon any person to appear before it for purposes of giving evidence or providing information, compel them to produce any document the commission may require and — finally — recommend necessary action. 

Competitive recruitment

The commission shall, through an open, transparent and competitive recruitment process appoint a suitably qualified person to be the Secretary to the commission, it states.

 “The Secretary shall hold office for a term of three years and shall be eligible for re-appointment for one more term,” the report adds. 

The establishment of the commission is expected to resolve the long running standoff between health care workers and county governments.

Almost all the 47 counties have been rocked by persistent strikes by medical workers over varied grievances, including delayed salaries and poor working conditions. 

The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU) has often accused governors of giving medical workers raw service by failing to implement return to work formulas, delaying pay and promotions. 

When he appeared before the Yusuf Haji-led BBI committee, former KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga proposed the establishment of an independent health service commission, saying this will solve the challenges facing the sector. 

“The coordination issues affecting health workers that include access, capacity, needs, deployment, discipline and recruitment, equitable distribution and termination of health workers should be handled by the commission,” Oluga said.

The BBI reports has also called for austerity measures at the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) in a bid to reduce the amount of money it spends on administrative costs and release more funds to assist counties deliver quality health care.

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