Cuba deal: Does Kenya need to import doctors?

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses a meeting during his tour of Cuba, March 17, 2018. /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses a meeting during his tour of Cuba, March 17, 2018. /PSCU

Should the government import doctors from Cuba to strengthen the health system or should they make use of the workforce in the country?

This is the question on every doctor's mind after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that 100 Caribbean

doctors will be imported.

The government says the decision was taken so as to fill in the existing doctor - patient ratio gap in county hospitals.

Read:

In the deal, each county will get at least two doctors. But, is that really enough?

Data from the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board shows that the country has a shortage of 34,445 doctors.

Currently, the board has registered a total of 4,344 doctors who serve close to 38 million Kenyans across the country.

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials faulted the governments move to outsource labour yet close to 1,000 doctors are yet to be deployed in counties.

"We have a serious shortage of doctors in the country. The government should consider the more than 1,200 Kenyan doctors currently unemployed since May 2017," Mwachonda Chibanzi, KMPDU deputy secretary, said.

Secretary general Ouma Oluga told the Star on Monday that it would be unfair for the government to outsource labour yet Kenyan doctors are unemployed.

"There are currently 2,400 foreign doctors working in the country. If these ones come, the number will go up to 2,500. Where are they going to place Kenyan doctors?" Oluga asked.

Oluga also noted that a total of 700 doctors resigned while others left the country for further studies in 2016 and 2017.

"That means we have another gap of 700 doctors to fill. This year we have no doctors who graduated, so there are also less than 200 interns in 2018," Oluga said.

Trainee doctors commonly referred to as registrars account for more than 70 per cent of the workforce in county hospitals.

These doctors do not get any stipend from the government for any work done which has been one of the reasons when they go on strike.

Healthcare has been falling into a crisis with nationwide doctors’ strikes now and again over their welfare as well as working conditions.

The lowest-paid Kenyan doctor earns Sh1.52 million per year.

The lowest-paid Indian general practitioner earns the equivalent of Sh303,092 per year.

Kenya has 600 health facilities and about two-thirds of them do not have doctors.

The government will employ two foreign doctors for each of the 94 level four and five hospitals.

In 2016, doctors when on strike for 100 days over what they termed as poor working conditions and under-staffing.

Until then, the medical fraternity

awaits to see if at all the government will put them first before outsourcing labour for a sector that is already bleeding.