In a statement by Health Cabinet Secretary Mtahi Kagwe, Kenya has gotten offers to send more of its unemployed nurses to Italy and Kuwait.
Speaking on Monday during a ceremony to see off 13 nurses who passed tests to work in the UK under a bilateral agreement by Kenya and the UK government, CS Kagwe said they were completing the UK recruitment before embarking on other countries.
“We have also received an offer for Kuwait but we want to be done with the UK process first. The fact that Kenya’s ambition is to become a healthcare hub can only happen if the recipients are open-minded about the opportunities,” he stated.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding signed in July 2021, Kenya is seeking to send 20,000 nurses to UK hospitals in a bid to improve the welfare of its migrant workers overseas.
The exercise drew a lot of controversy during the first phase of the deployment last year after the Ministry said only 10 nurses passed the language proficiency tests required.
CS Kagwe on Monday, however, assured Kenyans that the cohorts have been trained and prepared well so that they can achieve the scores they need.
“The nurses we are flagging off today are well trained and have passed the test of English proficiency. All the candidates have the language ability to be productive in their destination country,” he said.
The UK High Commissioner to Kenya, Jane Marriott, who was present at the event revealed that the nurses were recruited by the Oxford University Hospital Trust.
“Today marks a new era of international recruitment of Kenyan nurses to the UK through a government-to-government arrangement. This is a milestone in the implementation of the health workforce collaboration agreement,” said Marriott.
She noted that an additional six nurses will leave the country in about two weeks, expressing optimism that the qualification of the nurses was a testimony of Kenya’s high quality and competence of her health workers.
According to Ms. Marriott, some other 70 nurses have been identified and are currently being matched with potential employers in the UK and will be travelling to the UK in the next months.
In Monday’s cohort, two nurses each were picked from Vihiga and Kirinyaga counties while Busia, Kisii, Murang’a, Marsabit, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Nyamira, Migori, and Siaya produced one nurse each..
The health workers will be absorbed into the National Health Service, the publicly funded British healthcare system.
In February, the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) began offering English training to nurses in order to meet the terms of the bilateral agreement.
The training will improve the English skills of nurses who make up 30% of KMTC's 12,000-strong population, making them more “internationally competitive”, according to CS Kagwe.
At the time, Kagwe said Kenya will only send those who have not yet been absorbed into the local labour market.
To be eligible for work in the UK under the program, one needs to be a Kenyan citizen and have a diploma or bachelor's degree in Nursing recognized in Kenya.
The health worker must also be registered and licensed by the Nursing Council of Kenya and hold a police clearance certificate.
Successful applicants must undergo training before leaving for the UK, and also pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Occupational English Test (OET), as well as the Computer Based Test (CBT).
Kenya also hopes to import health workers from the UK, although the Health Ministry is yet to reveal when, or the exact number of employees that the country will receive.