Challenges and a knowledge gap exist at varying levels when it comes to recruiting and retaining healthcare workers in the most rural parts of the county.
Homa Bay and Västerbotten County share commonalities which led to an ICLD-course on how to successfully apply for a municipal partnership.
“It has been most helpful – the team was taken through the logical framework approach (LFA) for the plan and gained a greater understanding of what can be funded through ICLD,” says Gordonn Okomo, County Director of Health, Homa Bay.
The annual training course in Härnösand, Sweden addresses partnerships in the inception phase of a project. The intention is for both partners to attend and offers an ideal opportunity for them to plan a municipal partnership project with the guidance and support of the ICLD programme officers.
Why is this an urgent and important project for Homa Bay County?
“We have numerous mediocre health indicators which the department of health is working around the clock to turn around. By engaging in this project, and involving stakeholders in the community, facility and management levels, we will take a step forward,” says Francis Aila, County Nutrition Coordinator.
Homa Bay County aims to improve health indices in the county as well as providing equitable healthcare for its citizens, given that healthcare is a constitutional right in Kenya.
Västerbotten and Homa Bay are now looking to establish a municipal partnership.
“Homa Bay is politically deprived in a number of areas, such as the lack of any major investments in healthcare, which has resulted in high levels of maternal and infant mortality,” says Roland Gustafsson, Project Coordinator at The Centre for Rural Medicine, which is a primary healthcare department at Västerbotten County Council.
The villages have cottage hospitals or infirmaries staffed by a nurse who is expected to handle everything from HIV prevention to births with meagre resources. Volunteers collect and disseminate information, and Roland Gustafsson hopes that the project application they are currently working on will boost this work.
“We want to develop the potential for better information dispersal in order to bring pregnant women into the loop, so that they attend check-ups and make sure their children are vaccinated. We also want to support the nurses in their role, e.g. by providing training.
What are the biggest challenges facing Homa Bay when it comes to offering citizens a high standard of healthcare?
“A high rate of disease burden which places considerable strain on the available resources, inadequate knowledge on health services at community level and inadequate human healthcare resources,” says Gordonn Okomo.
In addition, inadequate equipment and infrastructure to provide quality healthcare and limited funding for healthcare services in the county are also challenges which need to be overcome.
Homa Bay and Västerbotten County share common ground when it comes to laying the foundation for a mutually beneficial partnership – rural population, difficulties recruiting and retaining healthcare workers in the most rural parts of the county, as well as knowledge gaps at varying levels.
“The lack of infrastructure, both when it comes to information and to physical roads. The management team are very capable, but they lack both the financial resources and, further down the organisational tree, the personnel resources. We hope to help them bring a bit of structure to their work. The lack of a knowledge network is another weak point,” says Roland Gustafsson.
How can Homa Bay County serve as an inspiration to Västerbotten?
“Homa Bay County is implementing a robust community Health Service Strategy that entails securing the services of community health volunteers (CHVs) to pass information on to households. The CHVs are equipped with Android smartphones for real time reporting of their findings. Västerbotten can adapt this strategy as a means of promoting health in their county,” says Gordonn Okomo.
And what do you learn from Västerbotten?
“Västerbotten utilises state-of-the-art telemedicine healthcare when interacting with its citizens under a limited human resource framework. Homa Bay can learn and benefit from this experience. Secondly Västerbotten has a well-coordinated referral system that Homa Bay lacks – and here we can learn a great deal.”
Was the project-education with ICLD helpful in developing a project plan?
“Yes it has been most helpful since the team was taken through the logical framework approach (LFA) for bringing the plan to fruition as well as gaining an understanding of what can be funded through ICLD.”
You have applied before. Are you hopeful that the project will be accepted this time?
“Yes we are. We have worked hard during the training to engage the facilitators in order to get it right this time around.”