Universal Healthcare (UHC) is defined as a situation where all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without undue financial hardships. Healthcare is a human right and therefore, WHO in the pursuance of the human right to health, the 58th World Health Assembly of 2005, urged member countries to aim at providing universally healthcare to all members of the population. In 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya declared Universal Healthcare a national priority in the country as part of his ‘Big four Agenda’. UHC marked Kenya’s commitment to the actualization of SDG 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all. The launch was done in four counties: Kisumu, Nyeri, Isiolo and Machakos. In spite of the launch of UHC, the government was unprepared with no policy to deal with a pandemic. This therefore became evident when Kenya was hit by the 1st COVID case in March 2020. On 24th October 2020, Ministry of health had reported 47843 cases, 33,421 recoveries and 884 deaths. As of July 29th 2021, there has been 201,009 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kenya, 184,216 recovered patients and 3,910 COVID related deaths. This pandemic came to further weaken an already crumbling healthcare system especially in low-income countries such as Kenya. Nurses who form about 48% of the healthcare workforce were most affected. A study was carried out among nurses’ directly caring for COVID-19 patients in two hospitals Kiambu Level 5 Hospital. WHO in 2018, reported approximately 0.2 physicians and 1:2 nurses per 1000 population in Kenya. According to Training Needs Assessment 2016, the total number of health workers currently employed at health facilities is estimated at 31,412, well below the required 138,266 healthcare workers as per the norms & standard Guidelines by MOH. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data. Majority of the nurses reported staffing as a major challenge. Additionally, due to health workforce shortage, most of them were forced to work extralong hours that resulted to burnouts. Moreover, lack of resources such as adequate PPE, ICUs, Bed capacity to manage COVID-19 patients led to anxiety and mental health disturbances such as depression among nurses in Kenya confirming Sayed K. Ali & Jasmit Shah, 2021 observations. Poor pay and delayed promotions were among other challenges that consequently led to national wide health workers strikes during the month of October, November and December 2020.
This study therefore provides empirical data regarding nurses voices in connection to their personal, workplace and environmental challenges in the wake of novel epidemic and pandemics with the hope that the results could be used as guidelines in formulating a relevant UHC policy.