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HIGH COST OF LIVING

It's cheaper to train doctors locally than in Cuba – association

Says the proposed enhanced allowance of Sh144,000 will not be enough

In Summary

• Says they can continue to earn their usual salaries while they serve Kenyans

Doctors in a theatre
SAVING LIVES: Doctors in a theatre
Image: File

The doctors in Cuba should be brought back home and trained locally, the Kenya Medical Association has said.  

Vice president Lukoye Atwoli on Friday said increasing the doctors' allowances is not the solution. He said the doctors are facing too many challenges, of which the high cost of living is one. 

He said if the doctors are trained in local institutions, they won't need as much money as they do in Cuba. 

Health CS Sicily Kariuki last week said a team of officials sent to Cuba on March 20 to look into the 49 doctors' welfare found that the cost of living is relatively high. 

"The ministry has already moved to address the challenges posed by the high cost of living by providing an enhanced allowance (Sh144,000), which will allow students to seek accommodation outside the university premises," she said.

But the association said even though they agree with the ministry that the doctors have challenges, they don't agree with the solution given.

"They should be brought back here and they will continue earning their normal salaries while they attend to the needs of Kenyans. So there will be no additional costs," Lukoye said.

"The association wasn't involved in the deal. We went to court to do public participation and [have us] involved in the decisions but we were ignored." 

He said the government has an obligation to protect its citizens and there is no need of "sending its citizens to slavery" and put them through cruel and inhuman treatment.

"This is an issue of human rights. Think about those who are there, they have families, children, parents who are worried about their status out there," Lukoye said.

On March 17, while on a state visit to Cuba, President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed to accelerate a health agreement to bring in doctors from the Caribbean nation to fill staffing gaps in county hospitals.

According to the MoU, the ministry will pay the doctors’ salaries, while the counties will cater for their accommodation, ground transport and other work-related expenses. The agreement covers a raft of areas.

They include the secondment of specialists and technical experts to operate equipment.

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

The agreement covers the two countries’ participation in research and advanced trials of medicines in areas where Kenya is vulnerable: using therapeutic anti-HIV and anti-prostate cancer vaccines, using vaccines to control influenza and meningitis and controlling diabetic foot ulcer amputation.

It covers the vector control in the fight against malaria. The MoU obligates the ministry to ensure the specialists are paid their salaries by the 10th day of every month, to pay for their flights to Kenya and back to Cuba during annual leaves and final departure. 

The ministry will also provide them with professional medical indemnity insurance cover and relevant work permits.

They enjoy both Kenyan and Cuban public holidays.

“The ministry will grant each specialist an annual leave of 30 calendar days, which may be spent in the Republic of Cuba,” the MoU says. 

"The rest of the days shall be spent within the territory of Kenya."

A high-end medical specialist in Cuba earns about Sh6,000 every month, compared to about Sh500,000 for Kenyan specialist doctors.

In Cuba, salaries for government jobs average about Sh2,000 per month, augmented by a range of free services and subsidies.

Collaboration with Cuba is likely to become a major strategy in dealing with preventive options in disease management. 

It could potentially save billions of shillings that go to global pharmaceutical companies each year for treatment at the cost of growing the economy.