Lay care-takers or care brokers inside the public hospitals in Kenya

As we have seen so far care taking inside Kenya’s public hospitals was a reality. What might be the way forward. Some health professional might be put off by the suggestions I am about to put forward. They argue that we need to do away with the caretakers. I also thought the same for many years until I realized this was not about to happen.

It was apparent that Kenya could hardly sustain the gains we have been making as a sector to several modifying factors. So it’s like making the best out of a bad situation. We said many things about traditional birth attendants TBAs but with the perennial industrial unrest facing the health sector, who is helping the women deliver? It was an undeniable fact.

Overcrowding, bed sharing and ‘lay care takers’ are a common sight in many public health facilities in Kenya. Even though caretaking was a salient issue, it was not on the national agenda yet thousands of people were lay caretaking in Kenya. In other words, it is a critical health sector that possibly does not employ but deploys.

Some institutions made feeble attempts to chase them out of the ward at certain times, others applied a hospital fee for them but none of these had come to the point of a deliberate effort to eliminate this practice. It, therefore, appears that there is a gap we are reluctantly (almost like) willing to cede to them.

Lay care had become a vital component of Kenya’s health system, but not many people wanted to talk about it or suggest how best to run it, greatly underserving a critical segment of health care that serves the population who need help desperately. Our national health policies, as well as hospital policies, do not wish to acknowledge that caregivers were an extension of the care delivery team.

Up to where we have reached as a country, lay care ought to be a health policy issue that needs to be debated in our legislative forums county, parliament, senate etc. On Tuesday 1st February 2011 during the discussion of an anti-corruption report that had been tabled, the matter came up in the National Assembly but nothing much except creating awareness came out of it.

One Member of Parliament acutely replied, ‘does the assistant minister (for health) know that the hospital (New Nyanza General Hospital then) only had 200 out of an expected 554 nurses? We need relatives to stay to assist the nurses. Can he confirm that we now have the full complement for nurses?’

What do some of those concerned think? ‘As … advanced some procedures were left to the caretakers’. This was an answer given to this author by one correspondent who did not blink an eye as they said so. In African context not blinking an eye means saying or doing something unashamedly, without feeling guilty conscious. Much as I was taken aback by that mindset I had to reflect on it and this was my conclusion.

In (As … advanced) above, in the dash, one could fit in many things including devolution, job evaluation, education, technology, politics and all the health care cadres issues that exist today. That was how far down our society had sunk. The reader can think of some.

I will explore another angle of lay care takers in the hospitals next time.


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