Homa Bay lacks local specialists, asks for Cuban doctors

CEC says they have advertised twice but no specialist has applied for two key positions

In Summary

• Official proposes merging specialist services in counties due to insufficient experts

•  Machakos CEC says pathologists in some counties are being 'wasted' by only carrying out postmortems

Homa Bay Health CEC Richard Muga in Kisumu on May 29
TOWARDS ACHIEVING UHC: Homa Bay Health CEC Richard Muga in Kisumu on May 29

Homa Bay county has pleaded for more Cuban doctors, saying it has been impossible to attract local specialists. 

Health CEC Prof Richard Muga says they have advertised twice for a pathologist and a radiologist and no one applied. 

"We need to go back to Cuba and get the experts from there. If Homa Bay doesn't have these specialists, you can be sure counties like Mandera do not," the former director of medical services at the Ministry of Health in Nairobi said. 

Kenya had 128 specialists in radiology in 2015 and nine in radiotherapy/oncology–mostly working in Nairobi and Mombasa–although that number has since increased slightly. 

The Kenya Health Workforce Report also shows Kenya had 78 pathologists at that time. 

Muga spoke in Nairobi on Wednesday during the Health Sector Intergovernmental Consultative Forum, which brings together Health CECs and the Ministry of Health.

However, Machakos Health CEC Dr Ancent Kituku complained that pathologists in some counties were being "wasted" by only carrying out postmortems. 

"Pathologists are key for diagnoses of diseases like cancer, but some people think they only do postmortems," he said.  

Acting Director General for Health Dr Wekesa Masasabi proposed counties should merge specialist services.

"We do not need 47 cancer centres, we may have to merge many of these stations. Cancer requires highly specialised care and we don't have enough specialists," Masasabi said. 

He said, however, that as the country rolls out the Universal Health Coverage, Kenya may be forced to engage specialised foreign doctors in fields with low local capacity. 

Specialists constitute about 37 per cent of the active and retained medics, according to the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board.

"For cancer specialists, we have been advised the best place is India and retirees from the UK, China and the US. We are looking into that," Masasabi said. 

Last year in June, each county received at least two Cuban specialists, in a government-to-government arrangement where 50 Kenyan doctors are also receiving fully paid for specialised medical training in Cuba for two years. 

The UHC pilot is currently underway in Kisumu, Machakos, Nyeri and Isiolo, which have witnessed at least 29 per cent surge in patients. 

The Cuban medics work hand in hand with their Kenyan counterparts to roll out a range of medical services that are expected to radically change how a large number of life-threatening diseases are managed.

Kenya provides the Cubans 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 rest of the days shall be spent within the territory of Kenya,” an MoU signed by the two governments reads.

Edited by R.Wamochie