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Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.
Nurses who want to work abroad will have to go through the government and not private recruiting agencies, the government says.
This is after the UK stopped active international recruitment of nurses from Kenya by the agencies.
“This is to protect the country from agencies who want to destabilise our health system by poaching nurses who are not supposed to leave the country,” Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said Friday.
The existing agreement between Kenya and the UK stipulates that only nurses who are not employed should be exported to work abroad.
“What the agencies do, they recruit nurses who are already working in various facilities in the country, even the specialists. This is definitely affecting our health system and Kenyans are left to suffer,” he said.
“What we are saying, if any special nurse has to leave the country, then it has to be through the blessings of the government and since we cannot employ all the nurses, we are always happy to release those without a job,” he said.
Apparently, the agencies were bypassing the government and ferrying nurses who are already working in Kenya to the UK.
Employed nurses and those who have specialised in various fields such as nurse anesthetists, cardiac nurses and critical care, he said, will not be part of the team that will travel.
He added: “We want to protect Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and so we really do not wish to have brain drain because this might destabilise the health system.”
The clarification from Afya House comes hours after the the UK Health Department issued a statement halting ongoing recruitment of nurses and other healthcare workers from Kenya. It cited workforce shortages in Kenya for the move.
“While Kenya is not on the WHO Health Workforce Support and Safeguards List, it remains a country with significant health workforce challenges…adding Kenya to the list in the Code protects Kenya from unmanaged international recruitment which could exacerbate existing health and social care workforce shortages,” says the statement from the UK.
This means that British employers must stop all active recruitment of health and social care personnel from Kenya to the UK immediately.
“If employers have already given conditional offers to nurses or other health or social care personnel from Kenya on, or prior to Thursday 11 November 2021, the recruitment process can continue. This recognises the investment which has already been made to get the candidate to this stage and will ensure candidates who are fully expecting to be able to move to the UK to work are treated fairly,” the UK Health Department said.
Kenya has sent about 2,000 nurses to the UK as it seeks to improve the welfare of its migrant workers abroad.
Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said the government has embarked on exporting highly skilled healthcare workers and professionals abroad.
The UK and Kenya signed a bilateral agreement in July 2021 to provide a framework for future international recruitment to benefit unemployed medics.
The UK is also upgrading Kenyan institutions to international standards to offer training to fit for its market. The first batch of nurses left in October.
The rush to leave Kenya and work abroad is mostly motivated by pay as those who left the country are now earning more than double what their Kenyan counterparts make.
A fresh university graduate, for instance, will earn at least Sh323,326 per month in the UK compared to Sh99,620 in Kenya.
However, the higher earnings in the UK may not give much relief to workers as the cost of living is much higher than the East African nation.
The Royal College of Nursing has estimated that the average annual salary of a National Health Service (NHS) nurse is Sh4,324,410. – nation.africa.