By Mike Mwaniki
A multi-stakeholder partnership has been formed to support three “neglected” health cadres expected to play a vital role as Kenya accelerates efforts towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
The initiative spearheaded by Amref Health Kenya, Malteser International and Kenya Healthcare Federation—has identified emergency care technicians, Community health workers and Health Records and Information officers—as the cadres that need to be supported and strengthened.
Amref Health Kenya Director (Institute of Capacity Development), Dr George Kimathi said the project is a private-public partnership whose goal is to support and strengthen these cadres to have a standardised curriculum.
“We urge the national and county governments to invest in their training to accelerate efforts towards the achievement of UHC,” Dr Kimathi added.
KHF chairman Dr Amit Thakker said there was need to integrate the cadres within the healthcare workforce and ensure the issue of their salaries was urgently addressed.
“The critical issue involving the Community Health Workers—who were previously viewed as volunteers—should be addressed as a matter of urgency so that they now become a recognised cadre in the health sector,” he said.
Dr Thakker said CHWs play a critical role in mobilising people to seek treatment or vaccination at the grassroots.
Health Ministry Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, speaking at a recent meeting noted the government has not “utilised our community strategy well, we only use the CHWs when we want to push an agenda.”
At the stakeholders’ forum, the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) Deputy Registrar (curriculum), Dr Solomon Kilaha said the institution had finalised plans to train 1,000 CHWs every year for the next five years.
“We have identified 10 KMTC campuses to undertake this crucial exercise to supplement the training that is currently ongoing,” Dr Kilaha added.
The Health Ministry’s Community Health and Development Head, Dr Salim Hussein said there was need to remunerate the CHWs saying their availability should not depend on volunteerism.
“The National Government’s mandate—which focuses on Policy (formulation and development); Standards and Quality Assurance (training, service provision), Capacity and Technical Assistance as well as Accreditation –is to strengthen the role played by the auxiliary health cadres,”
During the forum, the emergency medical technicians (EMTs)—who are deployed in ambulances—and are the “first line” healthcare givers during emergencies, also expressed their misgivings on their “neglect”.
When the recent terror attack occurred at the Dusuit Hotel in Nairobi, for example, the EMTs were among the first to arrive at the scene, attending to victims as well as rushing the injured to hospitals for treatment.
The EMTs chairperson, Ms Eunice Kamau said although the cadre was formed after the 1998 American embassy terrorist attack in downtown Nairobi, it still remained unrecognised.
“We are appealing to the Health Ministry to urgently launch the EMT policy document—which is ready—so that we are officially recognised as a cadre within the Ministry,” she urged.
A draft budget policy statement released in January 2018 during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big 4 Agenda launch says by the end of 2018, the government had hoped it would have increased the number of people with health coverage –from 16.53 million to 25.74 million, a figure that will hit 51.57 million—Kenya’s projected population by 2022.
“The Government will review and amend the NHIF Act to align it to the UHC and review the laws governing private insurance companies to encourage investment and bring the cost of cover within the reach of every Kenyan,” it says.
On health, the Government will expand the Linda Mama programme—its ambitious free maternity care—to mission and private hospitals, while at the same time “enlisting 100,000 community health volunteers to help in healthcare service provision at the grassroots.”