Counties to share Cuban doctors set to arrive end month for 2 years

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki and Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu yesterday during the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Health and the Council of Governors that will see Kenya import 100 doctors from Cuba. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]
Furnished apartments, security, transport and a monthly salary are some of the privileges the 100 Cuban doctors will enjoy while serving the country for two years.

It is not yet clear how much each doctor will earn as this has to be decided by the Public Service Commission, as earlier stated by Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki.

The new collective bargaining agreement for local doctors sets the monthly pay for a Kenyan specialist at Sh814,000.

This means by the end of the two years, the Government will have spent an estimated Sh2 billion on the Cubans - exclusive of the perks offered by the counties.

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The Council of Governors (CoG) yesterday signed an agreement with the national government ahead of the May 28 arrival of the specialists from Havana.

While the counties will provide furnished apartments, security and transport, the national government will cater for the doctors' pay.

The specialists will serve for two years, according to a memorandum of understanding signed between the two governments, with an extension signed by the CoG.

The Government sought foreign assistance at the height of the crippling doctors' strike and has accused local doctors of being reluctant to serve in remote areas, where the specialists will be deployed.

However, the doctors' union has opposed the hiring of foreign doctors, insisting there were 171 local specialists without jobs.

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In the memorandum signed yesterday, each county will receive at least two experts - a family physician and an expert in a specific domain requested by the county. However, Samburu will have three family physicians while Laikipia, Kitui and Kirinyaga will have two each.

The ministry indicated that 50 selected Kenyan doctors would travel to Cuba for a two-year training starting in September.

Ms Kariuki said the exchange programme would promote knowledge transfer and mentorship to help promote health in Kenya.

"The journey towards universal healthcare is a long-term undertaking that requires regular consultation and coordination between the two levels of government and all actors," she said.

Kariuki said the ministry would re-orientate the training curriculum and framework of sharing experts.

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CoG Health Committee Chairman Mohamed Kuti said since experts with varied specialisations were not enough and would be scattered across different counties, it was prudent to share them.

“The spirit of sharing is encouraged. Doctors should be available when needed in other counties,” said Dr Kuti, adding that the process was 'consultative and all-inclusive'.

CoG Vice Chairperson Anne Waiguru welcomed the hiring of the doctors, saying it should be a regular subject of discourse between the two levels of government.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union maintained that 171 specialists had yet to be employed by the Government. The specialists, the union's secretary general, Ouma Oluga insisted, were from all the medical fields the country needed.

Cuban specialists

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According to the deal, the Cuban specialists include radiologists (three), nephrologists who are basically kidney specialists (five), orthopaedic surgeons (body skeletal-muscles and bones), plastic surgeons, and neurologists (brain specialists).

Others are heart specialists, endocrinologists (hormone specialist), anaesthetists, ophthalmologists (eye specialist), dermatologists, critical care physicians, general surgeons, gastroenterologists and maxillofacial surgeons (face defects).

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