154 new cases, 162 recoveries, 3 succumb to Covid-19 and new measures to address health workers concerns – Health CS Mutahi Kagwe

Today 154 people have tested positive for the virus, from a sample size of 3,262 tested in the last 24 hours, bringing to 94,768 the number of confirmed positive cases in the country. The cumulative tests are now 1,014,287. From the cases 141 are Kenyans while 13 are foreigners. In terms of gender 104 are males and 50 females. The youngest is a four-month-old infant, while the oldest is 75.

Distribution of the cases by Counties is as follows; Nairobi 50, Kilifi 20, Kiambu 15, Marsabit 10, Turkana 10, Busia 9, Meru 8, Machakos 4, Kajiado 3, Kisumu 3, Siaya 3, Migori 3, Kisii 3, Nakuru 3, Mombasa 2, Vihiga 2, Uasin Gishu 1, Murang’a 1, Makueni 1, Kirinyaga 1, Homa Bay 1 and Embu 1.

On a positive note today, 162 patients have recovered from the disease, 133 being from the Home-Based Care Program, while 29 have been discharged from various hospitals. The total recoveries now stand at 76,222.

Unfortunately, 3 patients have succumbed to the disease bringing the cumulative fatalities to 1,647. Our sincere condolences to the family and friends of those who have lost their loved ones.

Currently there are 835 patients admitted in various health facilities countrywide and 3,740 on Home Based Isolation and Care. 43 patients are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), 22 of whom are on ventilatory support, and 22 on supplemental oxygen. 1 is on observation.
Another 27 patients are separately on supplementary oxygen, out of whom 23 are in the general wards. 4 are in the High Dependency Unit (HDU)

The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Council of Governors officials have been holding consultative meetings with union officials, to deliberate on the ongoing industrial action by various cadres of health workers. The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection alone, has had more than 6 meetings with union leaders, as part of the conciliation efforts to resolve the situation.

We take note that most healthcare workers are not on strike. Workers in all national referral hospitals and those working in majority of county facilities are not on strike. We applaud all the workers for their efforts in the fight against the Corona Virus disease and other diseases.

To address the concerns raised by health care workers, we have taken the following measures;

  1. With regard to PPEs, both National and County Government facilities have provided adequate and quality PPEs to all frontline health care workers. On this matter, we need to really move from rhetoric to practical matters. Healthcare workers who have been asked to go to work without protective equipment should provide details of the facilities where this has happened for immediate redress.
  2. On insurance and compensation, all County governments have provided comprehensive medical cover for their employees including health workers. 19 counties have cover with NHIF, and 28 counties have cover with Private Insurance providers. Employers are not compelled by any law to procure insurance services with NHIF alone, and therefore, they have used their discretion to procure with different service providers, licensed by the relevant licensing authorities.

Included in the covers is Group Life, Group Personal Accident and WIBA. As of November 2020, the 473 6-months contractual Covid-19 staff, had their details forwarded to the Ministry of State for Public Service and Gender Affairs, to facilitate their introduction for comprehensive medical cover by NHIF. For UHC Staff on a 3-year contract, authority has been given to introduce them to the IPPD payroll by PSC, so that they can also get Comprehensive medical cover.

  1. On UHC staff payment, we wish to report that 9,145 staff have been engaged and cleared for salary payment. By November 2020, a total of 8,604 had been paid their salaries. Out of the remaining 541, 234 have been cleared and are in the payroll for December, while 307 have pending cases because of various challenges including varied accounts, and non-submission of required documents. Some have submitted dormant accounts that has resulted in their salaries being returned by their banks.
  2. On the demand for hiring of more staff, while we acknowledge that there is need for recruitment of more health workers, the demand by the unions to recruit specified numbers of health workers is not attainable, given the strained resources and revenue shortfalls across all the sectors of the economy.

However, in the last six months, County Governments in collaboration with the MOH and PSC have recruited 9,858 officers, of various cadres of health workers for a period of three (3) years under the UHC program. Others recruited are 118 Medical Officers, 47 pharmacists, 5 epidemiologists, 114 clinical psychologists, 235 registered ICU nurses, 235 medical laboratory technologists, 1,891 specialized Clinical Officers, 3,897 Nurses and 739 health workers to specifically fight COVID-19.

  1. On promotions, over 25 Counties have effected promotions of health care workers since August 2020. Accordingly, Unions are encouraged to engage respective County Governments, to effect pending promotions based on the prevailing financial situation in the remaining Counties. As for the National Government, 1,200 cases that had stagnated have been presented to the Public Service Commission, and consultative meetings are ongoing with the commission for their promotion.
  2. On isolation facilities for health care workers in the event they contract Covid-19 virus, the Council of Governors has confirmed that all Counties have designated specific health facilities to treat health workers and their dependents. Some counties have even made arrangements with private sector facilities for this. Unions are encouraged to reach out to the county departments of health, to guide on the designated facilities in the respective counties. Again, to move from rhetoric, any healthcare worker feeling abandoned on this matter, should raise the issue with their respective departments of health for immediate redress.
  3. On delays in remittance of statutory and third-party deductions, we take note that delays are as a result of exchequer delays from the National Treasury. Counties have relied on bank overdrafts to ensure that salaries are paid on time. However, this overdraft cannot cover remittance of statutory deductions due to the huge monetary implications. Its important to appreciate that Covid-19 pandemic has not only affected revenue receipts for businesses but also for the Government.
  4. On payment of call allowance for doctors working for MoH, discussions are underway with key stakeholders, including regular multi-agency team meetings chaired by the Ministry of State for Public Service and Gender Affairs, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, as well as Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
  5. On Health Service Commission, it should be borne in mind that this issue is a medium to long term one that requires multiple player participation including parliament, and the general public. Unions are encouraged to therefore lobby the relevant institutions.
  6. On conversion of all contractual employment to permanent and pensionable terms, as well as on the harmonization of risk allowance, we note that the issues are currently being addressed by a multi-agency Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Labor and Social Protection.

It’s worth bearing in mind that even as the multi-agency committee does its work, enhancement of any allowances in the public service must be approved by SRC. Further, contractual engagement is recognized by law and therefore, the parties need to be guided by the terms of the agreements.

As noted above, there have been significant strides made towards addressing the issues raised to the extent possible. It is therefore regrettable that some health workers have chosen to down their tools and deny innocent Kenyans the much-needed healthcare service, at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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