Kenya to import 100 doctors from Cuba, send 50 for special training

President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks on direct engagement among African-Caribbean and Pacific countries during his state visit to Cuba, March 16, 2018. /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks on direct engagement among African-Caribbean and Pacific countries during his state visit to Cuba, March 16, 2018. /PSCU

Kenya has agreed to accelerate a health agreement it signed with Cuba last year, by importing doctors from the Caribbean nation to fill gaps in county hospitals.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is pulling all the levers to ensure the success of the health pillar of his Big Four agenda.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said Kenya had struck an agreement to bring in 100 medical specialists – with each county getting at least two – and that 50 doctors will be sent to Cuba for specialised training.

Kenya will also work with Cuba on collaborative research projects, develop training for primary healthcare workers and collaborate to build capacity to undertake genetic engineering and biotech work.

“Timelines are as soon as possible,” said Aman, who was part of the delegation that accompanied Uhuru to the Caribbean nation globally known for its leadership in primary healthcare.

Cuban doctors will need to be cleared by the Kenya Medical and Dentists Practitioners Board but Governors Anyang Nyong’o of Kisumu and Mohamed Ali of Marsabit, who were also in the delegation and back the deal, said they expected no problems.

Nyong’o had been to Cuba twice before when he served as minister in the Grand Coalition Government. He had been been party to health cooperation agreements that were never implemented.

The Governor said he wants swift implementation of the plan because health is at the epicentre of a growing Kenya.

The President ordered Aman to remain in Cuba until he delivers an agreement with extensive detail on cooperation with Cuba.

Essentially, the agreement will cover a raft of critical areas. These include the secondment by the Cuban government of doctors to Kenya to fill crucial gaps in county hospitals and that of technical experts to operate equipment.

It also covers participation in research and advanced trials of medicines in areas in which Kenya is vulnerable. This will be through the use of therapeutic anti-HIV and anti-prostate cancer vaccines; vaccines to control influenza and meningitis; and control of diabetic foot ulcer amputation.

It will also cover the vector control in the fight against malaria.

Kenya will also look to Cuba for vaccines against ticks, guaranteeing healthy animals and cleaner environment due to a reduction of chemicals used in tackling ticks at the moment.

The sum total of these agreements is that Cuban experts will come to Kenya within the next few weeks and roll out a range of medical interventions that will radically change how we manage a large number of life-threatening diseases.

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If the recent political handshake had the potential to change political discourse, the agreement with Cuba will be of seismic proportions when it comes to the management of Kenya's healthcare systems.

The key approach for the Cubans concerns preventive measures so the country stops the spread of disease before the economy is drained.

Collaboration with Cuba is likely to become a major strategy in how Kenya deals with the preventive options in disease management. The main goal is saving billions of shillings that go to global pharmaceutical majors each year for treatment, at the cost of growing the economy and delivering shared prosperity to all.