In Summary
  • The Ministry of Health has already announced that the country is likely to have 10,000 coronavirus cases by the end of April.
  • On average, in the last four years, the density has been 22 health facilities per 100,000 people.

The ability of Kenya’s healthcare system to handle the surge in coronavirus cases is much weaker than many believe.

The Ministry of Health has already announced that the country is likely to have 10,000 coronavirus cases by the end of April.

As confirmed cases continue to increase, there are 59 by Tuesday, one of the biggest issues doctors could face is finding space to treat patients requiring medical assistance.

Whether Kenya has enough hospital beds to treat all those who could become infected is questionable. Available data on hospital capacity suggests the country does not.

INPATIENT BEDS
Kenya also has a shortage of inpatient beds with the national average for inpatient bed density at 13.3 beds per 10,000 population. This is below the World Health Organisation (WHO) target of 25 and the global average for lower middle-income countries of 18.

Data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) show that although there has been a remarkable expansion of healthcare infrastructure by counties, the number of facilities and workforce remain inadequate to cater for demand by a steadily rising population in need of such services.

Healthcare infrastructure has seen expansion and improvement with an increase in the number of facilities from 8,616 before devolution in 2013 to 11,324 in 2017. This has increased the national average facility density from 19 to 24 per 100,000 people.

About 80 per cent of the facilities are at Level Two (dispensaries) and Three (health centres), which focus on primary healthcare, while 20 per cent of the facilities fall in Levels Four and Five.

These comprise secondary health facilities and provide specialised services, while Level Six facilities are highly-specialised referral hospitals and provide healthcare, teaching, and training and research services. On average, in the last four years, the density has been 22 health facilities per 100,000 people.

INFECTION

On the other hand, Kenya Harmonized Health Facility Assessment 2018/19 indicates that the mean availability of standard precaution for infection prevention items is at 65 per cent.

Only 12 per cent of health facilities had all items for standard precaution for infection prevention such as disposable syringes, disinfectant, safe final disposal of sharps, safe disposal of infectious waste, alcohol based sanitisers, appropriate storage of infectious waste.

The report shows that on average, health facilities had 55 per cent of basic amenities available with only six per cent of the facilities having all basic amenities.

Efficient delivery of health services requires skilled personnel in adequate numbers. These include doctors, clinical officers, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory personnel, and specialists at different levels of care. In addition to healthcare caregivers, other supportive staff cadres include the managerial staff, records officers, and cleaners.

Understanding their numbers are therefore critical in planning for resource allocation, expansion of human resource capacity and identifying gaps.