Amref International University in Kenya graduated its first ever group of healthcare workers, adding 179 nurses into a health system that desperately needs that cadre of workers but will not hire them or give incentives for them to stay in the country.
The nurses graduated in Comprehensive Reproductive Health and Registered Community Health Nursing.
It is Amref International University’s first graduation since its transition from a training centre.
The graduation came one day after Kenya Medical Training College graduated another batch of nurses in their hundreds on December 5, 2019, in Nairobi.
They join the workforce when nurses are still unsure about their terms and conditions of working in public hospitals managed by the national government or those in the 47 regional governments following a series of strikes starting from 2017.
Maurice Opetu, the deputy secretary general of the Kenya National Union of Nurses told The EastAfrican that after the wave of strikes by nurses agitating for their rights, the courts ordered there be a conciliation between the caregivers and their employers.
The bone of contention was the recognition of a return-to-work formula that the nurses had negotiated and wanted included in the Collective Bargaining Agreement to govern their relationship with their employer.
Speeches made at the graduation were a stark contrast to the situation in the health system in Kenya. The university’s Chancellor, Festus Mogae who is also the former President of Botswana said the nurses add to the health professionals who will “strengthen the health workforce in Kenya and beyond.”
Mr Mogae reminded the nurses to “serve with humility, diligence, and integrity … to go forth as innovative health practitioners and inspire lasting change.”
Kenya is in dire need of nurses and due to the few numbers, and those in active employment have had to be innovative and improvising to cope with the workload.
The Kenya Health Workforce Report states that Kenya’s nurses to patients ratio stands at 8.3 per 10,000 people while the World Health Organisation recommends 25 nurses per 10,000. This means that one nurse handles the work of three, and that the country is operating on a 300 per cent nurse deficit.
Prof Margaret Kobia, the Cabinet Secretary for the Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs told the nurses that their vocation “will allow them serve as innovative health practitioners not just in Kenya, but globally”.
A 2018 World Bank report stated that 70 per cent of nurses are able to diagnose ailments correctly, slightly higher than their Ugandan and Tanzanian counterparts at 60 per cent when weighted with the same metrics of five common ailments.
There have been reports of Kenya nurses leaving the country in droves. The Kenya Health Workforce Report stated that between 2004 and 2015, a total of 482 nurses applied to leave for the US (54 per cent), Namibia (16 per cent), Australia (11 per cent), Canada (four per cent) and the UK (three per cent).