Absentee doctors leave trail of pain

Relatives take care of patients on August 25, 2014 at the Coast General Hospital. FILE PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA |

What you need to know:

  • Gaps in skills also blamed for rot.
  • Study wants incentives put in place to motivate health workers

Absenteeism and knowledge skill gaps are the biggest causes of inefficiency in health services in Kenya.

A report by the World Bank found that doctors in public health facilities are absent more than a third of the time (37.6 per cent) and that absenteeism is generally more rampant in urban facilities than in the rural ones.

Clinical officers were found to have an absenteeism rate of 36 per cent while nurses were found to be more dutiful, missing from work only 30 per cent of the time.

Ironically, 88 per cent of the absenteeism cases are sanctioned.


When it comes to knowledge skill gap, the World Bank reports that while doctors get the right diagnosis 86 per cent of the time, they are only able to translate that into full treatment in 54 per cent of the cases they handle.

Clinical officers and nurses show a similar trend, exhibiting a diagnostic accuracy of 81 and 72 per cent respectively, and a full treatment rate of 47 and 46 per cent respectively.

Midwives fared the worst, recording a diagnostic accuracy rate of 82 per cent against a full treatment rate of 28 per cent.

This illustrates a yawning gap between book knowledge and practical skills exercised by health workers.

“Inefficiency creeps through partial treatment, which may arise due to lack of resources needed to deliver required treatment, a high workload or low motivation among health workers to do the right thing,” explains the report.

The researchers recommend that incentives be put in place to motivate health workers to be at their stations at scheduled times.

Other causes of inefficiency at health centres were resources-based, mainly manifesting in late disbursement of funds to the hospitals, as well as low drug stocks and leakages in the medical supplies chain.

Drug stock-outs and shortages were reported in as many as 85 per cent of the hospitals surveyed in the Public Expenditure Tracking Survey findings of 2004.