It would be unwise to renew Cuban doctors' contracts

When Cuban Doctors were deployed to Mandera County. [File, Standard]

The national government should seriously consider the parliamentary Departmental Committee on Health's request not to renew the contracts of Cuban doctors working in Kenya.

The governments of Kenya and Cuba got into an agreement in 2017 through which 100 Cuban specialist doctors were hired to serve in Kenyan hospitals. Conversely, Kenyan doctors were to train in Cuba.

From the outset, this agreement was opposed by unemployed Kenyan doctors who went ahead to file a case at the High Court in 2018 challenging the government's decision to hire expatriate Cuban doctors. At the time, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union said there were about 2,000 Kenyan doctors and 170 specialists who needed employment.

The Cuban doctors were placed in Job Group S and started off on the maximum monthly pay of Sh882,180 in that group. Entry grade Kenyan trained doctors in the same job group earn Sh86,810-about a tenth of what the expatriates earn. It is incredible that a government orchestrate such discrimination against its citizens. Additionally, the Cuban doctors are entitled to furnished houses, transportation to work, paid for utilities and air fares whenever they proceed on annual leave unlike their Kenya colleagues. This huge disparity in pay and perks is unacceptable and was bound to cause discontent.

The Cuban doctors took off to a bad start when confronted by a language barrier that reduced their effectiveness. They could not converse in either English or Kiswahili, making it difficult for them to understand their patients. Concerns expressed by Kenyan doctors are valid and should be acceded to.

In truth, our health sector is punching below its weight and requires a boost. One way of doing this is employing more local doctors and remunerating them well. It is foolhardy to continue paying expatriate doctors exorbitantly while our economy is struggling, and hundreds of well-trained local doctors are 'tarmacking'. It is pointless to train doctors at great cost and then fail to employ them to serve the public. Let's get our priorities right.