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Shortage of neurosurgeons bites as head injuries rise


The country has only 18 brain surgeons against a WHO recommendation of one for every 200,000 people.

Kenya requires at least 56 neurosurgeons to meet the World Health Organisation threshold.

According to Dr Jackson Kioko, the Director of Medical Services, the country is facing an acute shortage of the health specialists despite of rising head and spinal injury cases linked to road accidents.

“We have only 18 neurosurgeons serving 45 million Kenyans . . .  This is a big variance considering there are increased incidences that require the attention of a neurosurgeon such as brain and spinal cases linked to road accidents (boda boda accidents) and other health conditions like cancer,” he said during a neurosurgery conference in Eldoret last Wednesday.

The WHO recommends at least one neurosurgeon for every 200,000 people.

“In East Africa with 27 specialists, one neurosurgeon serves over 11 million  . . . because of the shortage, 56 per cent of patients with severe injury die after 24 hours,” said Dr Kioko.

He added, “10 years ago we had only two neurosurgeons, this is a great milestone but we are still far from achieving the WHO requirement . . .  at the ministry level, we are looking into those sub-specialties needed in the country so that we direct our finances to train more to increase the number and bridge the gap.”


Statistics released last month from police and the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) showed that 1,852 people suffered severe injuries through road crashes this year. Another 2,101 suffered slight injuries.

The World Health Organisation, in its recent report, estimates that out of 100,000 people, 30 die from accidents.

Dr Kioko said that the government had come up with a number of interventions including distribution of 21 MRI machines and expansion of NHIF to support surgical operations.

“The National Emergency and Orthopedics Surgical Strategy that will tackle some of these issues is near completion. However, I am challenging neurosurgeons to also present their recommendations for consideration,” he added.

Dr Wilson Aruasa, the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital chief executive said that the institution had completed construction and equipping of a 45-bed neurosurgery unit and expanded the intensive care unit to 28 beds to handle head and spinal cord injury cases.

He added that the hospital has partnered with the ministry, Styker, Carolina and Spines Association to conduct surgeries on 60 patients.

“We held a medical camp where we screened patients and found that the 60 patients require the operation. This would have taken us between three and four months but with this partnership, it will take just five days,” said Dr Aruasa.

He said that the facility with five neurosurgeons was focused on provision of specialised healthcare to allow counties to handle primary cases.

The CEO also revealed that the plan to construct a new 2000-bed facility  at a new site is expected to begin in August.

“We are evaluating the design and equipment for the new facility and we expect to break the ground next month,” he said.

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