At least 400 million people across the world lack access to essential health services, partly because of a shortage of trained professionals. The joint World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Bank Group report, ‘Tracking Universal Health Coverage,’ further reveals that more than 40% of all WHO member states have less than 1 doctor per 1,000 people. Kenya is one of those, with a 0.199 density per 1,000 population.
It’s something the East African country’s government hopes to turnaround with its Vision 2030 Plan which includes investment in health, along with education and training. General Electric (GE) established the Healthcare Training and Skills Institute to support sustainable healthcare development in Kenya through training 10,000 health professionals by 2020 – over 1,000 healthcare professionals have already been trained since the Institute opened last year. It’s a seemingly natural fit for the digital industrial company that has already committed itself to training over two million health professionals around the world by the same time.
Speaking at the opening, Dr. Cleopa Mailu, Cabinet Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Health said: “Demand for quality healthcare is increasing. The GE Training Centre will play a critical role in supporting the capacity development of biomedical engineers, radiologists and technicians, helping to reduce the skills gap, improve job prospects and build a solid national healthcare system.”
This strategic partnership falls under the Kenyan Government’s $420 million healthcare transformation programme to deliver sustainable healthcare development, and is part of a broader programme to modernise the radiology infrastructure in over 90 country hospitals across 47 counties and 4 national referral hospitals. Speaking to CNBC Africa, GE Africa President and CEO Jay Ireland emphasised the importance of training and skills building alongside procurement of equipment.
“We feel the training and skills building is absolutely critical. You can have all the equipment deployed around the country, but if there’s no trained workers to service them or to work with the patients then the equipment is really useless.” – Jay Ireland, President & CEO, GE Africa
GE’s involvement in skills development training doesn’t end there. They’ve also partnered with the Ministry of Health to deliver biomedical engineering training programmes in Kenya which has resulted in hospitals with trained technicians having 43% less out of service equipment in examined departments. Belinda Muendo, GE Healthcare’s Education Services Leader for East Africa, says it’s important that the engineers and technologists responsible for keeping healthcare technology in service are suitably skilled. “Such a consideration is not always at the forefront of decision makers’ minds when prioritizing resources for healthcare, but could be highlighted through an impact assessment at the start of the healthcare planning process,” adds Muendo.
The Healthcare Training and Skills Institute will initially offer clinical applications and technical training courses for healthcare professionals, before expanding to offer skills development to a broader range of healthcare workers.
During the inauguration event last year, three new partnerships for skills building in Kenya and East Africa with the Kenya Medical Training College and global partners IntraHealth and Management Sciences for Health were also signed.