Sunday, February 12, 2012

Time to implement the health task force report

Sunday Nation 12 February 2012

At the height of the doctors’ strike last December, sceptical observers wondered whether doctors would be willing to go back to work if nothing but their pay demands were met. The answer was not a simple yes or no.

The doctors’ main condition was that the government should show some commitment to addressing the 13 issues raised by the union in their memorandum; the matter of salary and emoluments was not even the main one.

The strike was eventually called off after the government agreed to introduce new allowances for doctors, as well as to establish a task force to address the policy issues and a negotiating team for a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement. The sceptics laughed at the “naivety” of the doctors in accepting “peanuts” and leaving the health sector in as bad a shape as it had been at the beginning.

The union leadership took this step in realisation of the fact that a doctors’ strike could not go on indefinitely, and that the biggest loser was the common mwananchi who could not access quality health care in the absence of doctors. The promise made by the union to Wanjiku was that her needs were still at the top of the agenda and that, now that we had been heard, we were ready to get to work providing solutions for the problems we had identified.

A couple of weeks ago, the task force appointed to look into health policy issues raised by the union presented its report to the permanent secretaries in the Ministries of Health. The report identifies serious gaps in the management of the health sector and provides solutions for each of the identified problems.

If the report is implemented, it is unlikely that this country will ever see another doctors’ strike in this generation. Among the issues addressed, the main one was that the ministries of Health continue to be grossly underfunded despite increasing health needs of the growing population and the growing burden of infectious and non-infectious diseases.

Other problems included inadequate infrastructure, drugs and equipment, understaffing, little investment in the training of health workers, lack of compensation for some doctors in training and the lack of a proper legislative framework for health.

Key recommendations from the task force include the allocation of a Health Stimulus Package of about Sh220 billion over the next three financial years and a commitment by government to gradually increase regular health allocation by two per cent per year until the Abuja target of 15 per cent is met.

Specific recommendations were also made for revitalisation of the health infrastructure, including the identification, equipping and staffing of county-level referral hospitals across the country. Recommendations were made on the management of the health workforce and health facilities across the country.

A major plank of the report is the formation of a Health Services Commission through a constitutional amendment to manage the human resources for health and provide guidance on health policy to the government.

This report needs to be fully implemented if we are to revolutionise Kenyan health care. Indeed, one hopes that all political parties competing in the coming General Election will take up this report and make it their health manifesto, in order to guarantee better health for all.

Only then can Kenyan doctors finally say to Wanjiku, “You were not forgotten”.

Dr Atwoli is secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association and lecturer, Moi University School of Medicine.


  1. now the sceptics know there is more to gain than salaries for doctors.
    i hope everyone who reads the musymi report will flip pages upto the appendices, thats where the real detailed stuff of the report lies

  2. quite informing at least I am now in the know unlike many selfish people out there peddling lies about doctors (read Politicians)...I also understand what should be in any political parties manofesto so as to give a serious thought for voting for it. Thank you daktari and keep informing us!!

  3. Kenyans should back doctors in pursuing this noble cause for their own good. On the other hand, doctors should not relent in their efforts of bringing sanity in the medical sector. They should also keep Wanjiku posted on what's going on.

  4. Well said mwalimu.During the and after doctors strike that took place in December 2011, all manner of insults were directed at us. Some labelled us opportunists and selfish and thus not fit to be in such a noble profession.They accused us of striking only to enrich ourselves.Unknown to the naive was the fact that among other things we were and still are advocating for is the improvement and better funding of Kenyas Public Health facilities which has unfortunately suffered from perennial neglect by each successive government.Such efforts to address the rot in our health system are therefore welcome and require the full involvement of the mananchi (read Wanjiku) who is the regular consumer of the said facilities and NOT the overfed overpaid under worked politician.


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