The Star (Nairobi)

13 March 2014

Kenya: Macharia Calls On Counties to Pay Nurses

HEALTH Secretary James Macharia has urged county governments to expedite payment of nurses' salaries. Macharia has called on the public to give government up to three months to streamline the sector and address grievances. He said the delayed payment of the nurses' dues, some for more than two months, is unfortunate.

Macharia was speaking yesterday at Panafric Hotel in Nairobi. He said the government released money in January to the counties to settle the workers' dues. Macharia was addressing journalists on the sides of a one-day stakeholders consultative meeting to discuss the draft Kenya Health Policy 2014-30.

"I am calling on those counties that have not paid the nurses who were hired on Economic Stimulus Programme to ensure they are paid without any further delays," the CS said. An estimated half of counties have not paid nurses hired in 2009 on three-year renewable contract under ESP; a delay Macharia described as 'an inconvenience to them and their families'.

The CS assured public that he will follow up the case with the affected counties, which he did not mention, saying the national government will work with the devolved governments to ensure proper budgeting for health services.

In reference to the recent reports of resignations of doctors from Embu county, where a record 14 medics resigned en masse, Macharia called on them to embrace dialogue as a mode of grafting possible solutions to their concerns.

"We cannot afford to have more resignations, as we only have 3,300 doctors on the ground, out of the total 10,000 that we have trained; we don't want to lose anyone, it's too much," Macharia said.

He exuded confidence that service delivery will be improved upon completion of the National Health Policy.

"The policy is anchored on ensuring equity in access, people centredness and participatory approach," he said, adding that the document will spell out ways of ensuring efficiency in resource allocation and use and social accountability in service delivery.

The CS assured public that efforts to formulate the Health Bill are ongoing: "It has undergone a number of stages in the consultation process, and once enacted, it will guide the management of the sector."

Key among reasons for last year's countrywide health workers' strike that involved doctors and nurses, included the absence of the Health Bill, which the workforce lamented as an impediment to its effective delivery of services.

"I assure all stakeholders that some of these issues will be adequately addressed in the Bill, while others will require specific legislations to ensure their comprehensiveness."

Macharia further said that a policy to guide the internship programme for health workers was in the offing, "the specifics of which will be shared with stakeholders at an appropriate time."

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