1 February 2013

Kenya: Health Reforms Key Under New Governance

Nairobi — Several players in the medical field want the government to strengthen and revitalise the management of the health sector in the country, as preparations for the anticipated devolved structures get underway.

Led by the Kenya Medical Training Centre Deputy Director Joseph Karanja, the group noted the need to upgrade the leadership capacities in the health sector arguing that it would enhance service delivery.

Karanja argued lack of management skills among the country's top brass medical personnel were to blame for substandard services in the public sector.

"You just leave medical school, and then you are taken to a health institution in the rural areas where you find that you are actually the medical officer in charge and the administrator in charge," he said.

He observed that a survey commissioned by the government in the year 2008 realised that more than 61 percent of the country's health managers felt inadequately prepared for the role due to lack of proper skills.

"The training we had in medical school had very little input of management so that is one of the gaps which was established and has been found to be the core in the challenges facing the delivery of health services," he added.

Karanja also noted that it would be difficult to realise the Millennium Development Goals, which have a 2015 timeline, and the long term Vision 2030 without making these changes.

He added that it was also important to equip the country's health facilities with sufficient tools of trade.

"We would like to develop the capabilities of leaders in the health sector. A dream becomes a goal when action is taken towards its achievement," he said.

Public Health and Sanitation Director Shahnaaz Sharif also highlighted the need to invest in health leadership skills to make a difference in service delivery.

"We should stop talking so much about hardware because we have already invested so much for example in Kenyatta National Hospital but the radio therapy unit doesn't work and maybe the wards are dirty but everything depends on what the leadership skills are in that facility," he argued.

The government is planning to set up a well equipped hospital in each of the counties as it seeks to bring services closer to the masses.

There are also plans to increase referral hospitals and establish a health service commission in a bid to devolve health services from the national level to the counties.

Medical Services Minister Anyang' Nyong'o has, in addition, called for an increase of the health budget so as to enable those at the grassroots get better services.

Devolution will make changes to the manner in which the country is governed and will help disburse resources from the central government to the local level.

It seeks to ensure that national resources are shared equitably among Kenyans of all walks.

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