No time to waste as Cuban doctors get down to work

Cuban doctors Dr Jose Manuel Aldana (left) and Dr Maikel Rodriguez Tamajo examine a patient at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital Intensive Care Unit in Kisumu yesterday. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]
It is 2.30pm on Wednesday at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Dr Jose Manuel Aldana and his colleague Maikel Rodriguez Tamajo are making their second ward round of the day.

And just as they complete taking notes, Dr Aldana’s phone rings. It is a call from the casualty area. A patient has just been brought in and the doctor is required to assess his condition to establish if it is worth admission into the ICU.

Dr Aldana excuses himself and finds his way to the casualty area, up from the second floor where the ICU is located. After the assessment, he makes recommendations before moving to another room.

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Tamajo, on the other hand, moves to the theatre to make a list of the equipment he wants to request from the hospital management. Few hours before, the facility’s acting Superintendent Dr Peter Okoth had asked Tamajo to make the requests after assessing the theatre.

The two Cuban doctors, who are part of a team of about 100 that have been sent out to the 47 counties, were yet to be issued with special attire for their work. But they insist there is no time to waste since there is plenty of work to be done.

Dr Okoth, however, said all the required attire and equipment would be given to the two doctors as soon as possible.

The facility will be the home for Dr Aldana and Dr Tamajo, the two Cuban doctors who were deployed by the national government to county hospitals to help boost healthcare services.

Aldana, 54, is a critical care specialist, while Tamajo, 38, is a neurosurgeon. Their aim is to turn around the medical practice in the facility for the two years they will be in the country.

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People welcoming

When The Standard caught up with them at the facility, the duo were in high spirits, saying they feel at home, faster than they had imagined they would before they left Cuba.

“The weather here is the same as in Cuba. The food is the same and the people are very welcoming. I am glad to be here,” said Tamajo.

Jaramogi’s ICU has 13 beds. However, only four are in use due to shortage of staff.

According to Musa Ruto, the ICU manager, each bed is expected to have one nurse on a 24 hour basis. And with eight nurses working on a 12 hour shift, only four beds can be used at a time.

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Dr Aldana will be working with this slim team and he has already blended well with them, with each of the staff having his personal cell phone number, just incase they need him for emergency cases.

“I like the equipment I found here. This is a learning experience for me and the staff here and I look forward to a making a great impact,” said Aldana.

The father of three is an auxiliary professor in internal medicine and ICU, and has been in practice for the last 30 years. He has worked in the ICU for 19 years, both in Cuba and outside his country. In the next 11 years, he will be retiring from public service as stipulated in his country’s laws, but he still has a vision for medicine, probably further than the 11 years.

Aldana has worked in the Dominica Island before, for three years, and that is where he perfected his English language. He says even though Cubans are Spanish speakers, he has no challenge communicating with Kenyans.

For Tamajo, this is his first time to work outside Cuba. He has nine years experience in practice, and has conducted some complicated surgeries.

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Since he arrived in Kisumu five days ago, he is yet to conduct any surgery, but two are already lined up for him next week.

Dr Okoth yesterday said the hospital was ready to offer full support to the Cuban doctors.

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