According to data from the 2011 economic survey, the number of registered medical personnel stood at 100,301 last year, against a population of 40 million.
This presents a challenge to provision of proper health care considering the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of a nurse-patient ratio of 200:100,000.
Going by current figures, Kenya’s ratio stands at 50:100,000. It is on the back of these unflattering statistics that the countrywide e-learning initiative was launched by the African Medical and Research Foundation (Amref), the Nursing Council of Kenya (NCK), Accenture, the Kenya Medical Training College, and the Ministry of Health.
Started in 2005, the e-learning programme targets improving enrolled nurses’ skills.
Ms Caroline Mbindyo, the programme training co-ordinator, said adoption of e-learning will not only increase the number of medical personnel but also improve the quality of health services.
“The more we train our medical personnel, the more we shall improve the medical sector in the country,” she said. “This means better diagnosis and treatment and consequently improved health outcomes.”
The e-learning programme is specific to nurses considering the fact that they are the first contact with patients.
Enrolled Nurses are the majority of personnel at 70 per cent of nursing staff. They comprise of 45 per cent of the health workforce in Kenya.
“Different nurses have different grades depending on their training, the e-learning syllabus provides students with diploma level qualification,” said Ms Mbindyo.
“At the end of two years the students sit for Nursing Council approved exams, if they pass they become registered nurses.”
E-Learning was adopted because of its low cost and time management effectiveness as compared to the residential programme.
The residential programme currently popular among medical colleges in Kenya limits the number of participants based on bed capacity, tuition fees, and availability of trainers.
Through the e-learning programme, students are able to receive lessons, assignments and carry out discussions online.
The e-learning content includes six modules; general nursing, midwifery, communication health, and specialised areas like psychiatry.
A total of 32 medical training colleges and nursing schools are participating in the initiative.
They have created a Virtual Nursing School. Over 110 computer-equipped training centres have been set up in eight provinces, including rural and marginalised districts like Garissa and Dadaab refugee camp in North Eastern Province.
During a visit to Kibera Health Centre two weeks ago, Vice President of the European and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, said e-learning provides a platform for quality training and access to current information in the medical sector.
The best ambassador
“E-learning will help address acute shortage of health workers currently experienced in the country”, she said.
“A well-educated nurse is the best ambassador for the future health of our mothers and children.”
Luke Kodambo, head of the National Nurses Association of Kenya, said the country had a shortage of 6,000 nurses. Mr Kodambo said the country needed 26,000 to 30,000 nurses in public health facilities.
“Sadly, Kenya has a total of 18,000 nurses in public health facilities, 2,000 of who are employed by development partners in various projects,” he said. Since the programme’s inception in 2005, 7,000 nurses have been enrolled, 4,000 have since graduated.
The programme’s developers are considering introducing a degree course. Ms Edwina Anyango, a nurse who graduated in 2009, said the training had improved her managerial kills.
“The online classes have enabled me to access new and current information in the medical sector, unlike the traditional classes where one had to access old books with outdated information,” she said.
One of the challenges facing the sector is brain drain.
Past reports have singled out Britain, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Finland as preferred destinations of Kenyan medical staff relocating abroad.
“The problem is not unique to Kenya,” says Ms Mbindyo.
“There are a number of reasons that have been fronted for the exodus of trained medical personnel, ranging from lack of financial incentives to difficult working conditions.
“There is no single solution to this, we have to address reasons that make our doctors and nurses to leave the country.”
Source: allafrica news