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Home / Health & Science

Red carpet welcome awaits Cuban doctors in counties

By MERCY KAHENDA AND RAEL JELIMO | Mon,Jun 18 2018 00:00:00 EAT

 Two Cuban doctors on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on June 7. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The majority of governors and health executives have welcomed the 100 Cuban doctors contracted by the Government to work in various hospitals across the country.

Letters of deployment signed by Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko, show the doctors, who arrived in the country last Tuesday, have been posted to respective hospitals in counties as per discussions and recommendations between the Ministry of Health, Council of Governors and county health executives.

However, there has been mixed reactions from individuals working in the health sector with some saying the needs of counties with specific disease burdens seem not to have been considered during deployment of the expatriates.

Oxygen equipment

In Baringo, for example, an intensive care unit (ICU) and critical care physician is expected to handle patients although there is no operational ICU.

The national government leased digital ICU machines but failed to install oxygen equipment.

“Kabarnet receives a number of patients who require intensive care but we always refer them to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) or Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). I am not sure what the ICU doctor is going to do yet the ICU is not operating,” said Francis Koros, the nurses’ representative.

According to the Kenya Inter-Agency Rapid Assessment Mechanism (Kira), prevalent infectious diseases in Baringo include malaria, pneumonia, respiratory tract diseases and skin diseases.

On every first outpatient visit, 11.8 per cent of patients are diagnosed with malaria while TB affects 600 out of every 10,000 patients.

The county also handles many cases of snakebites; reported in Mogotio, Baringo South, Baringo North and Tiaty.

But Health Executive Mary Panga said the ICU would be in use once the national government disbursed funds.

2018/19 Budget

“Though the ICU is not operating, I am expecting it to begin providing services by around September after receiving money under the 2018-19 Budget because there are some equipment we have planned to purchase.”

The county is also expecting a family doctor who, Panga said, would share knowledge with locals on some of the preventable diseases like malaria, pneumonia and respiratory illnesses.

“We are planning to take the family doctor to rural facilities to help implement primary health care that will result in fewer referrals to the major hospitals,” said the executive.

In Nakuru, a cardiologist will be stationed at the Level Five Hospital while a family doctor will be deployed to Naivasha.

Governor Lee Kinyanjui said the doctors would share their experiences and knowledge with local doctors thus boosting skills-sharing by the end of their two-year contract.

“The fact that different counties are getting different specialists from Cuba is a chance to have an exchange programme so that local doctors can get vast knowledge to attend to various ailments that would instead have been treated outside the country at a huge cost,” said Kinyanjui.

Dr Joseph Mburu, the in-charge at Nakuru Level Five Hospital, said heart diseases were common but there were no doctors, adding that a heart centre would soon be established.

Mburu said more equipment would be installed to complement the electrocardiogram machine and exercise equipment already in place.

He noted that patients with heart-related diseases had been seeking services at the MTRH and KNH.

“Heart-related diseases are on the rise and the cardiology doctor will help handle the cases and advice locals on prevention,” said Mburu.

But Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union South Rift Secretary General, Dr Davji Atellah, said it was unfortunate that the needs of respective counties were not considered during the lobbying and deployment process.

“Specialists and more doctors are required but each county was to receive doctors according to their disease epidemic,” said Dr Atellah.

In Nakuru, Atellah said, the cardiologist was needed but the family doctor would not create a big impact considering he performed duties like local general doctors currently working in different hospitals.

Kabarak University

Atellah said the majority of family doctors were trained at Kabarak University, where they took three years to specialise.

“Family doctors are not required in Nakuru, for instance. We have competent experts trained at Kabarak, who were supposed to have been accorded the opportunity by the government.”

Kericho is among counties with an acute shortage of doctors and is expected to receive an ICU and critical care physician.

Nurses’ official Laban Kiyego said despite the ICU being operational, there was a shortage of nurses with only four who were trained.

He also described as high the Sh3,500 charged each day for ICU services.

“Locals do not have trust in the ICU services, claiming that the chances of survival are only 75 per cent,” said the medic.

Heath Executive Shadrack Mutai said the Cuban doctors would provide vital services and exchange knowledge with local staff, adding that the county would employ 14 more doctors.

“The ICU expert will help boost services at the county. Currently, we do not have an ICU doctor stationed at the hospital,” said Dr Mutahi.

Bomet is expected to receive an endocrinology specialist to diagnose and manage diseases that affect the glands. The county will also receive a family doctor.

“Endocrinologists are required  to work closely with the community to prevent some diseases, but how effective is a single doctor going to be?” posed Atellah.

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