Report points at worrying medics absenteeism rate

Friday, August 2nd, 2019 00:00 |
Ministry of Planning official Geoffrey Mulama and NCPD director general Josephine Kibaru during the release of the health report, in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/TIMOTHY NJENGA

Half the number of doctors are often missing from health facilities when patients are in dire need of their services, a new report has shown.

The Kenya Health Service Delivery Indicator survey 2018 report released yesterday revealed that 60.7 per cent of doctors do not attend to their duties whenever patients needed them.

 At the same time, over half of the nurses (54.5) and half of the clinical officers  (49.5 per cent) were also missing in action. What is confounding is that most of the medical officers who are absent have permission to be away from work.

“During unannounced visits, more than half of clinical staff were absent. In fact, most of these absences were approved. The county government should establish systems for tracking staff availability during facility operation hours to reduce absenteeism.

Secondly, rational approval of staff leaves can be undertaken by the facility heads or county health managers so as not to interfere with efficient service delivery, the report says.

Absence rate was 52.8 per cent during an unannounced visit with public sector absenteeism standing at 56.7 per cent compared to 47.5 per cent in the private sector. The national survey by the government also painted a grim picture of the quality of healthcare service delivery in Kenya.

Conducted between March and June 2018, the survey particularly shows that Kenya’s progress in achieving key maternal, infant, and child health targets has been slow as captured in a number of key national policy documents and rocked by staff absenteeism.

The survey’s key findings show that about 33.5 per cent of dehydration, pneumonia, pulmonary tuberculosis, and type one diabetes cases, were wrongly diagnosed further sabotaging quality healthcare service delivery.

Caseload increase

National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) board chairman Sam Kona said comparing the 2018 values with those from the earlier SDI (2012), Kenya appears to have had an increase in caseload, absence rate and availability of infrastructure indicators. Caseload is the number of outpatient visits.

“Comparing with the previous round of SDI Survey, it would seem that almost all indicators show a decline except infrastructure.

While the reasons for decline need to be investigated further using additional research, and at least some of the difference may be driven by practical improvements between the two survey rounds, recent evidence suggests that devolution of health sector to counties could be a possible reason,” he said yesterday in Nairobi.

The absenteeism rate of medics, Kona said appears to have increased by 15.6 per cent between the 2012 and 2018 survey rounds.

For Kenya to make rapid progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC), a health system needs to have skilled human resources, minimum inputs such as drugs, commodities and infrastructure, financing, leadership and governance, and health information systems.

But in the findings, the report shows that basic equipment—as mandated by the Government—is not available at half of the 3,094 health facilities surveyed.

NCPD director general Josephine Kibaru said availability of skilled human resources for health remains a major bottleneck to improving quality of care.

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