The Kenya Kwanza administration’s endeavor to realize Universal Health Coverage (UHC) faces a potential setback amidst a crisis involving healthcare workers. Ironically, while Kenya grapples with a shortage of healthcare providers, the government is actively encouraging professionals to seek employment abroad. This controversy has repeatedly led to healthcare workers going on strike to protest county governments’ failure to address their demands, which often include issues related to hiring, better salaries, and improved working conditions.

Currently, doctors across the country are poised to resume strikes to advocate for increased budgetary allocation, which would facilitate the recruitment of more medical professionals among other critical expenses. They are advocating for the deployment of 1,215 medical interns.

Dr. James Nyikal, an experienced medical practitioner involved in developing community health volunteer policies in the early 2000s, warns that the government’s failure to hire more healthcare providers could impede the progress of the highly publicized UHC program. He emphasizes the urgent need to invest in healthcare and expand the workforce to meet the growing demand.

A recent facility report by the Ministry of Health revealed that only a small percentage of public hospitals have fully operational staff. Additionally, the report indicated that only 12 out of the 47 counties have the required number of healthcare workers per the population ratio, including nurses, clinical officers, and doctors.

Currently, Kenya has approximately 10,102 registered doctors, but a significant portion of them remains unemployed or are working abroad. Despite promises from President William Ruto to employ at least 100,000 healthcare providers, the actual recruitment has fallen short, exacerbating the existing shortage.

The Kenya Union of Clinical Officers and the Kenya National Union of Nurses have both raised concerns about staffing shortages in hospitals across the country. They argue that the lack of commitment from the government to address these staffing issues has led to numerous strikes and compromises the quality of healthcare services.

In response to the workforce shortage, the government has focused on deploying Community Health Providers (CHPs) to handle primary healthcare. However, some experts question the effectiveness of this approach, emphasizing the need for a balanced strategy that includes both preventive and curative healthcare services.

Despite these challenges, efforts to reach the Council of Governors for comment on the matter have been unsuccessful. As stakeholders continue to raise concerns about the shortage of healthcare workers, the government faces pressure to take decisive action to address the crisis and ensure the successful implementation of UHC.