Kenya lacks skills to deliver universal health care – Ministry of Health

By Gatonye Gathura

Kenya does not have the necessary skilled workers to deliver health care for all, reveals a new skills assessment report by the Ministry of Health.

A specialist skills assessment report published on 1st December says currently the county is facing a severe shortage of specialist skills making it impossible to provide universal health care.

The report prepared by the Human Resource Development Unit of the Ministry of Health says out of the required 138 266 health care workers only 31 412 are in place in both public and private sectors.

The assessors who covered 46 of the 47 counties excluding Baringo for logistical challenges, says the lack of crucial specialist skills is staggering

The shortage of specialist health workers, at 85 per cent was so acute that the assessors wondered at the logic of implementing the Sh38 billion Managed Equipment Service (MES) project.

“Ironically Kenya recently launched a mega $420 million state-of-the-art medical equipment project ….. to improve access to specialized healthcare services,” says the report.

The study funded by the Ministry of Health and USAID describes the equipment project as a serious management goof.

It describes the mismatch between the equipment project and user shortage as, “a manifestation of weak health system approach to the sector development.”

On Thursday the Principal Secretary for Health Julius Korir indicated the equipment scheme may have failed.

While addressing clinical officers at the launch of their strategic plan in Nairobi Korir said there is a serious shortage of specialists to utilize the expensive equipment.

The shortage of health care skills, he said is so acute that it threatens the country’s ability to attain the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Kenya Vision 2030 health targets.

In his swearing-in speech last month President Uhuru Kenyatta singled out health care as a priority in his final years of office.

“Over the next five years, my administration will target 100 per cent universal healthcare coverage for all households,” he said.

The new study led by Dr Mumbo Hazel Miseda, assessed specialist skills at 94 county referral hospitals and reports an 85 per cent shortage across the board as per the Norms and Standards Guidelines by the Ministry of Health.

‘What emerged from this assessment is that Kenya is experiencing a severe shortage of health specialists which is likely to jeopardize her efforts towards realization of rights to health and a threat to the attainment of SDGs.”

Counties with the lease number of specialist health works, the report says are Turkana, Uasin Gishu, Wajir, Kajiado, and Garissa.

Nurses specialized in forensics, dentistry, and accident and emergency are the fewest in the counties while there is no nurse specialized in oncology.

Apart from gynaecologists, plastic surgeons, and BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) nurses, all other specialists either do not exist or are in extremely short supply. (See table)

The authors suggest the government intervenes in the training of health workers to make sure the country gets the require skill mix instead of depending on market forces.

The author wants the training of cardio-surgeons, neurosurgeons, oncologists, nephrologists, lung and skin clinical officers, anesthetic clinical officers, and cardiology nurses be fast tracked.

Others who are urgently required are forensic nurses, dental nurses, accident and emergency nurses, and oncology nurses.

On the other hand, from the findings, the least number of health specialists required for effective service delivery are pathologists, epidemiologists, and dermatologists.

The study is published by Springer Nature in the journal Human Resources for Health on 1st December.


Specialist                                  Recommended (MOH)             Total Employed


Anesthetist                               590                                          106

ENT surgeons                          285                                          30

Ortho surgeons                         285                                          29

Cardio surgeons                       10                                            0

Neuro surgeon                         10                                            4

Urology surgeons                     10                                            3

Pediatrics surgeons                   10                                            8

Neurologists                             275                                          4

Plastic surgeons                        10                                            14

Obstetricians/gynecologists       560                                          1 054

General internists/physicians     570                                          1 719

Cardiologists                            20                                            1

Gastro-enterologists                  20                                            4

Graduate clinical officers          4 585                                                 939

ENT                                        1 375                                                 109

Lungs and skin                         1 885                                                 208


cataract surgery                         1 080                                                 90

Pediatrics                                 1 395                                                 135

Anesthetist nurses                     1 630                                                 61

Accident/ emergency nurses      2 750                                                 13

BSN nurses                                       1 180                                                 1189

KRCHN                                  41 732                                     8 612

Community public

health nurses (KECHN)           77 544                                     796

Cardiology nurses                              20                                            0

Facebook Comments
Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.