Governors asked senators to withdraw Agnes Zani’s bill
George Kebaso @MoraraK
Attempts by senators to have county governments formalise services of Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) in a bill seeking to introduce a well-defined scheme of service that’s paid for and pensionable has once again hit a snag.
In the latest development, governors asked senators to withdraw the Community Health Services Bill, proposed by Nominated Senator Agnes Zani of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), currently at the Senate for debate.
Council of Governors Chairman, Wycliffe Oparanya, said whereas recognition of CHVs is necessary as it is captured law, making it formal is not possible.
“The recognition of CHVs and their services can go on but not to be extended to the formal scheme of service for county governments.
The moment we do this, it will increase the wage bill of respective counties, which is already too heavy for us,” said the Kakamega Governor.
Existing legal structures
Speaking during a Zoom meeting hosted by the Senate Health Committee, Oparanya said in Kakamega county alone, CHVs are double the number of health care workers, meaning if the attempts to replace volunteers with workers succeed, counties will experience a double challenge of dealing with disgruntled populations of workers.
“In Kakamega we have 10,000 CHVs against 7,000 healthcare workers, but I only take care of 3000 CHVs because there are development partners who assist through their arrangement with individual volunteers,” he pointed out and asserted, “I will not manage at all to take care of all volunteers.”
The governor, instead, called on the senators to support county governments in strengthening existing laws such as the County Government Act and Public Health Act, among others.
“Zani’s Bill needs to recognise existing legal instruments at everyone’s disposal to address the issues of CHVs and other health matters at the primary healthcare level,” he said.
Specifically, Oparanya argued against the establishment of the office of Community Health Service director, saying other active offices exist, namely public health, medical services and county projects department.
“We only need to harmonise what we already have; creation of new offices will mean duplication of services and roles,” he added.
This was another set-back for Senator Zani, who looked dejected at the end of the meeting.
Last week, CoG’s Health Committee Chairman and Isiolo governor, Mohamed Kuti; his Kisii counterpart and chairman of Human Resources Committee, James Ongwae; and Machakos governor Alfred Mutua, maintained bringing CHVs into formal workforce will initiate huge problems.
“The Bill is good in streamlining CHVs work, but not necessary now as it comes with huge financial expectations,” Kuti said, recommending its shelving.
This, then, made senators announce a retreat to study submissions by governors.
In her arguments Sen. Zani said her proposal called for a legal framework that properly recognises the work of CHVs and empower them in their services at community health facilities level.
“The Bill is simply looking at a scenario where a clear structure and framework on how to deal with the CHVs is legally created.
We want to give them more capability in delivery of services,” she said giving example of Turkana, Siaya and Homa Bay counties as pioneer counties that have already adopted a similar framework.