Doctors fault plan to import health workers from Cuba

A doctor acts outside Afya House during a demonstration as the doctors started a country wide strike . Photo/Monicah Mwangi
A doctor acts outside Afya House during a demonstration as the doctors started a country wide strike . Photo/Monicah Mwangi

Doctors have faulted the government’s plans to hire medical workers from Cuba while thousands are jobless in Kenya.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists' Union officials said there are over 1,000 trained doctors who have not been employed since last year.

"H.E, if the @SicilyKariuki and @KenyaGovernors haven't explained, Kenya has 1,000 doctors who are not employed. They have waited for deployment since May 2017. There are additional specialists who have been waiting for deployment to counties. Is there room for these Drs in Kenya?" KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga said via twitter on Monday.

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"We have a serious shortage of doctors countrywide. The decision by the government to bring in doctors from Cuba should take into consideration the more than 1,200 Kenyan doctors currently unemployed since May 2017,” KMPDU Deputy Secretary-General Mwachonda Chibanzi said.

The government plans to import 100 doctors from Cuba to fill gaps in the county hospitals.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said this is part of the strategy to ensure the success of the health pillar, one of the "Big Four" agenda he wants to accomplish in his final term.

In the deal, each county will receive at least two specialists while 50 Kenyan doctors will be sent to Cuba for specialised training in the exchange programme.

Last year, KMPDU blocked attempts by the government to bring in doctors from Tanzania at the height of their strike that lasted a record 100 days.

Statistics produced by KMPDU indicate that Kenya has only 4,344 doctors in the public sector serving an estimated population of 38.6 million Kenyans.

The country has a deficit of 34,445 doctors, way below the World Health Organization standards.

WHO recommends a ratio of 44.5 nurses, physicians and doctors to take care of 10,000 people.

However, according to the data by KMPDU, Mombasa County, for instance, has a population of 939,370 with only 198 doctors.

This leaves a shortfall of 746 doctors.

In Nairobi, a population of 3.1 million people is served by 299 doctors leaving a deficit of 2,839.

Kisumu, with a population of 968,909, has 163 doctors with a shortfall of 806.

Bungoma has 129 doctors serving 1.3 million people, leaving a shortfall of 1,246 doctors to meet WHO standards.

It still remains to be seen how the government’s plan to import the Cuban doctors will pan out considering that they will need to be cleared by the KMPDU to be able to legally operate in Kenya.

However, Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong’o and his Marsabit counterpart Mohamed Ali, who were part of Uhuru’s delegation to Cuba, said they foresee no problem.

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