Friday, March 30, 2012

Agenda for new Kenya Medical Association team

Sunday Nation 25 March 2012

The Kenya Medical Association (KMA) will hold its Annual General Meeting at which members will install a new team at the helm later next month. The incoming team will face a couple of serious challenges due to the peculiar situation our country is in at the moment.

However, if the team is more proactive and able to recognise the opportunities inherent in these challenges, it shall rise above them and come out stronger than any other team in the history of KMA.

The first challenge the team will face at inception is the relationship with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU). The union, registered in August last year, already counts among its members thousands of doctors from across the country, and continues to recruit aggressively in all health institutions.
Many observers are convinced that the two institutions are in conflict, and that one must prevail while the other necessarily collapses.

Fortunately for Kenya’s health sector, this is simply not true. The two organisations, though drawing membership from the same pool, serve very different functions, and none can take over the roles of the other.

The union was formed primarily to address shortcomings in the terms and conditions of service of doctors.
In this regard, the union is empowered by law to negotiate legally binding collective bargaining agreements setting out new terms that are mutually acceptable.

KMA, on the other hand, has the primary mandate of presenting the professional side of the Kenyan doctor.
It is the only organisation that Kenyans can turn to for professional advice in any field of healthcare service delivery. The association also serves as a guarantor of ethical medical practice in Kenya, and is represented on the Medical Board. Finally, the association organises professional conferences and publishes a journal through which members share ideas on advances in diagnostics, treatments and other interventions in the medical field.

The two institutions, therefore, serve very different functions. For instance, KMA cannot sign a legally binding agreement with government on doctors’ terms and conditions of service, while KMPDU has the legal mandate to do so. Conversely, it would be strange for KMPDU to organise a professional conference discussing research in various areas of medicine, when this is the core function of KMA.

The second challenge the new KMA team will face as soon as they assume office is one that faces all professional associations in the new constitutional dispensation. Implementation of the Constitution requires that professional organisations identify areas that they can get involved in and advise the constitutional implementation authorities accordingly.

KMA will need to get more actively involved in the drafting of legislation for the health sector, including the proposed health Bill that is still under development.

More importantly, however, KMA’s voice needs to be heard loud and clear on the need to create the Health Service Commission. There is already a draft Bill in the report of the Health Reform Task force that was formed in December last year to look into areas requiring urgent attention in the health sector.

The new KMA office will be judged by how well they deal with these twin challenges, and important fruits members will recognise are a harmonious working relationship with the union, and an enabling legislative framework that will drive us all towards a better healthcare system for our country.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association, and lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine

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