The President of Kenya is right that the Kenya Health Human Resource Advisory Council (KHHRAC) is provided for in the constitution through the Health Act. That’s the basis upon which he instigated the creation of the council early last month.
His reactionary measure was aimed at assuaging the various health unions who have been demanding the formation of a National Health Taskforce to conduct a radical surgery of the disjointed Kenyan health system as the first step towards remedying it.
Through a Gazette Notice dated May 15, the Cabinet Secretary CS for Health Susan Wafula appointed five individuals namely Francis Wafula, Rosemary Njaramba, Joan Machoyo, Joy Mugambi, and Thomas Mweu to man the council for three years.
Health unions in the country have not yet issued a formal response to trash or approve the new appointees because they had initially requested that a portion of the members in the task force must be preselected from each cadre of health workers.
It has not yet been clarified as to whether the council is supposed to replace the idea of the formation of a task force. But if the words uttered by the President last month while recommending the formation of the advisory body are anything to go by then it might be true.
“We have agreed with governors that to remove the constant challenge that we have had around the partnership between the national government and counties and our health workers, we are going to inaugurate the Kenya Human Resource Advisory Council,” he said. Notably, health workers were not part of the consensus.
According to the constitution, the health human resource council is a quintessential toothless dog whose role is only limited to advisory without the ability to bite the offenders for instance those who delay salaries for interns, nurses, and doctors without genuine reasons.
“The Council shall review and make recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary on policy and uniform norms and standards; advise on gaps in recruitment and recommend the promotion of health workers,” that’s what the amended version of the health bill prescribes.
Neither the counties nor the Ministry of Health is bound in any way to adhere to the recommendations from the council. There is a likelihood of ignorance of any suggestions issued by the council as the counties have behaved before on numerous occasions while handling various matters; assuming it will exceptionally execute its mandate.
A glaring fact in all these developments is that the plea by health unions for the formation of a national health task force that would lay the ground for the creation of the Health Service Commission (HSC) has been remotely ignored.
In the minds of many health workers, the commission shall mirror that of the teachers in that it would have the capacity to hire health workers in accordance with their assessment findings. Furthermore, it will take full charge of the health human resource including disbursement of salaries. That in their opinion will avert delay of salaries and crafting of illegal contractual employment, a practice that has gained popularity among counties in the past few years.
Health pundits have also argued that it’s nonsensical to relay money to the counties so that they can wire it to the health workers’ accounts. The salaries can just be handled directly at a national level and that’s why a Health Service Commission will come in handy.
As the government falters in its quest to improve the health sector, the majority of workers hope that we shall not be dealing with the same problems one year down the road. The best time to fix the challenges bedeviling the health sector is now.