Low pay pushing doctors at Kenyatta hospital into depression

Doctors earning less than Sh150, 000 a month at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) are at high risk of being depressed.

Such doctors, a study among 338 medical residents at KNH suggest are likely to make medication errors, experience burnout, and have reduced empathy towards patients.

The study by senior consultants at the hospital, say it found a third, 30 percent of the participants with moderate and severe depressive symptoms

“Factors such as being a female and on an average income of less than KES 100,000 to KES 150,000 per month were significantly associated with depression,” says the study.

The study was published yesterday (8th September 2021) in the journal BMC Psychiatry by the consultants who are also lecturers at the University of Nairobi.

“We found that residents in the following departments: pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology and ENT surgery had higher scores of depression than others.”

The study also found depression strongly associated with: fewer hours of sleep and low social support. But the team reports substance use among study participants is at a low level.

The authors however say the findings are a major improvement from a previous study done in 2002. The earlier study found 48 per cent of residents to meet the criteria for major depression.

Explaining the difference, the authors suggest this could be due to massive efforts that have gone into improving the work environment and pay for doctors at the facility during the period.

“The results can be explained partially by changes in the work environment, and pay, as well as the drastic changes that have occurred at the hospital since the previous study,” say the authors.

But still the level of depression in this group is way much higher than in the general population at about 10 percent.

“Our findings could be explained by the stressful, mentally, and physically demanding nature of medical residency programs.”

Some of the challenges the medical residents have to live with the authors say include insufficient sleep, difficult clinical cases and huge study burden.

“Other factors such as poor coping skills and the easy access to substances of abuse serve only to compound these problems among residents,” says the study.

The authors recommend efforts be made lower levels of depression and stress and the risk of substance abuse among residents in Kenya.

By Gatonye Gathura


About Gatonye Gathura 142 Articles
Science Journalist

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