Kenya: Health Workers Say BBI-Proposed Health Service Commission Watered Down, Vow Rejection

22 October 2020

Nairobi — Health care workers in the country have vowed to reject the just released Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional review report, accusing the Senator Yusuf Haji-led panel of mutilating their proposals on the establishment of an independent Health Service Commission.

The unions representing health care workers wanted a Health Services Commission similar to the Teachers Service Commission, which would be responsible for training, recruitment, deployment, transfers, and promotions so that health workers are not at the mercy of Governors.

The unions had argued the establishment of an independent commission would herald far reaching reforms that would resolve to perennial challenges faced by health workers, unending industrial disputes.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), and Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO) have consistently blamed turmoil in the public health sector to mismanagement of workers, delayed salaries and lack of enough medical supplies.

Under proposals laid down in the BBI report President to President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the Haji-led taskforce limited the proposed Health Service Commission's mandate to reviewing standards on the transfer of health workers, facilitate resolution of disputes between employers and health workers and accreditation of health institutions.

The three unions termed the prepossessed framework as weak, reducing the commission to a mere advisory panel.

KNUN Secretary General Seth Panyako on Thursday said health workers will oppose the report for failing to incorporate their views, also threatening to move to court to challenge its implementation.

"In all our presentations we made it clear that we need an independent constitutional body to manage human resource for health so as to address health workers issues from a central point, for instance if you go to some counties health workers have not been paid for three months and am speaking on behalf of health workers if our views are not captured, we will reject BBI," said Panyako.

KUCO Secretary General Kenya George Gibore said the Universal Health Coverage agenda wouldn't be achieved if an independent Health Service Commission is not established.

"There cannot be Universal Health Coverage without health care workers and that's why we need an independent body to manage health services without external interference," he said.

KMPDU Secretary General Chibanzi Mwachonda also said the perennial health workers challenges can only be solved by an independent commission.

"For industrial harmony, and to ensure that Kenyans have access highly qualified and specialized health care providers the only prescription is a Health Services Commission," said Mwachonda.

The BBI recommends amendments on Health Act, 2017 to provide for the establishment of a ten-member National Health Services Commission whose chairperson will be the Health Cabinet Secretary while the Chief Executive Officer shall be an ex-officio member and Secretary to the Commission.

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