Kenya: Migration Driving Shortage of Medics in Kenya – Aga Khan CEO

Kenya is facing a shortage of at least 370,000 nurses and 149,000 doctors, Aga Khan University chief executive Shawn Bolouki has said, noting the effect of brain drain.

Health workers usually most commonly migrate in search of better work and study opportunities.

“A good number of our doctors and nurses are taking up jobs in medical facilities in Western nations. We need to train more medics and find ways to retain them,” Mr Bolouki told a delegation of Dutch healthcare business executives who visited AKU’s main campus in Parklands, Nairobi.

As part of efforts to curb the shortage and ensure the country has competent medical personnel, he said the institution was in the advanced stages of a plan to expand its college in order to train more people.


A 2015 report captured the shortage of medics in Kenya, whose doctor to patient ratio is 1:16,000.

The report titled ‘Kenya Health Workforce Report: The Status of Health Care Professionals in Kenya’ was by the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Nursing Council of Kenya, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, the Centre for Disease Control and Emory University.

Some reports on health facilities paint the picture – during a Public Accounts committee meeting at the National Assembly on Monday, County Health Chief Officer Washington Makodingo admitted that Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital had hired only 468 medical staff against the required 752.

Mr Makodingo further noted that Dandora Health Centre had just 47 health workers instead of the recommended 107.


Mr Bolouki also addressed the issues of medical supplies, technology use for diagnosis and equipment.

He said AKU will only buy products that have passed rigorous certification tests, stipulated by internationally recognised regulatory bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.

Regarding technology, Mr Bolouki complained that vendors sell products that are difficult to operate and support services are offered after long periods of time, meaning medical staff are kept waiting.

“We need to purchase affordable, sustainable technology that can be supported by appropriate and timely after-sale services. Sometimes we install new technology and then have to wait up to two months before we can get proper technical support,” he said.


On the use of artificial intelligence for diagnosis, the CEO noted caution in universal adaptation without proper vetting for suitability in practical applications within hospital settings.

He asked, “A 2015 study by the University of Davis in California showed that a group of pigeons could read a breast exam or mammogram with an accuracy level of 95 per cent. Another research is now using dogs to sniff out cancer in patients. Who would want their results read by a pigeon or a dog?”

The AKU boss further pointed out that Chinese companies had acquired an advantage over their European competitors by providing easily serviceable products

“When supplying to local clients, please ensure you match the available technology to availability of resources and the technical capability in the region. This is an area where Chinese companies have recently gotten an advantage,” he said.

He also appealed to pharmaceutical companies to provide drugs at “affordable and sustainable costs”.


The delegation of representatives from 22 Dutch healthcare firms was headed by Erik Gerritsen, Dutch Vice-minister of Health, Welfare and Sports.

Mr Gerritsen said patients must be empowered with “the right tools, information and knowledge” in order to take better care of their health.

“I do not think lack of vision is the problem when it comes to empowering patients to take better care of [themselves]. We already have the technology in place but the main challenge is implementation, which can be achieved by getting medical staff an patients to adopt technological solutions,” said Mr Gerritsen.

The Dutch minister gave an example of the M-Tiba, the Safaricom-powered medical services app, which he said was a major step for the country in provision of mobile health solutions.

“Kenya may not have as many health facilities as The Netherlands but it has a robust mobile applications service sector, which The Netherlands does not have. Use it to provide better services in the Universal Health Coverage programme,” he said.

He also said Kenya does not have to use the expensive technology West countries do as it cam tap into all of its available resources and develop “low-technology but high-impact” products.

“M-Tiba is an example of a low-technology, high-impact healthcare product that uses the short message service (SMS) technology but is based on block chain technology principles,” he explained.


M-Tiba allows the user to save funds and pay for healthcare at facilities that carry the app’s logo.

It is also possible to transfer funds from one’s M-Pesa account to M-Tiba.

Among services available on the app are patient information and self-care services provided by the Afya Pap app, developed by UK-based tech firm Baobab Circle.

According to Afya Pap chief executive Dr Precious Lunga, the app “caters for diabetes and high blood pressure patients by offering lifestyle and self-care tips to help them manage their condition”.

“Our service enable patients to take a more active interest in their health and quality of care from physicians. It enables them to engage with us on a regular basis and get information on better lifestyle and healthcare choices. This includes daily blood sugar tests, alerts and personalised medical advice,” said Dr Lunga.


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Publish date : 2019-07-11 09:50:09

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