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Why replacing striking doctors is not as easy as politicians say

By Jeckonia Otieno | Published Thu, January 12th 2017 at 00:00, Updated January 11th 2017 at 22:05 GMT +3
Kenya Medical Association chairperson Dr. Jacqueline Kitulu during the interview in her KMA office Upper Hill on 28/04/16 [PHOTO: JENIPHER WACHIE/Standard]

Even as warning letters began to fly, health experts say it is not as easy to replace striking doctors as the Council of Governors makes it appear.

The governors had given doctors on strike until yesterday to go back to work or face the sack.

But with the Kenya Health Workforce Report showing that the country needs 7,000 more doctors to meet the World Health Organisation threshold of one doctor for every 1,000 patients, health pundits are questioning how and where counties will get new medics.

"Doctors are not a cadre you can replace easily; even foreign doctors will have to go through the board to be registered and the process is rigorous, mainly to prevent quacks," said Jacqueline Kitulu (pictured), the national chairperson of the Kenya Medical Association.

Kenya has 5,000 doctors, and available statistics show that it would be a tall order to replace them.

According to the National Human Resources for Health Annual Report 2010, it would take several decades and at least Sh21 billion to train enough doctors to replace the ones currently on strike. It costs approximately Sh4.2 million and at least nine years to train a single doctor in Kenya.

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The shortfall of 7,000 doctors would need about Sh30 billion and up to 21 years to train at the current capacity of training institutions producing 360 doctors every year.

Dr Kitulu said like in past strikes, many of the doctors could opt to leave, worsening the country's brain-drain crisis.

"Every major strike by doctors has seen medics leave the country for greener pastures," she said.

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