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Kenya to end Cuban doctors deal, says Health CS Susan Nakhumicha

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha.[Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenya will not renew the contracts of Cuban doctors who have been working in the country for the last six years, Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha has announced.

Nakhumicha said the decision was made after a review of the health agreement signed between Kenya and Cuba in 2017, which saw 100 Cuban doctors deployed to county hospitals across the country.

She said the ministry was confident that Kenyan doctors were capable of providing quality health care to the citizens and that they would be well motivated and supported by the government.

"I want to say as a ministry, I have no doubt that we are going to have a very motivated workforce that is well taken care of and on that note I am pleased to announce that we shall not be renewing the agreement for the Cuban doctors," said Nakhumicha on Wednesday.

"I want to believe that our very own are going to be committed to the course," she added.

Nakhumicha made the remarks during the official opening of the Pre-National Human Resources for Health Dialogue at the Windsor Golf Hotel in Nairobi, where various stakeholders in the health sector convened to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the health workforce in Kenya.

The dialogue was attended by representatives from the ministry, the Council of Governors, the World Health Organisation, trade unions and professional associations among others.

The health agreement with Cuba also involved sending 50 Kenyan doctors to Cuba for specialized training in areas such as oncology, nephrology and dermatology.

Nakhumicha did not disclose the fate of these doctors or whether they would return to Kenya after completing their studies.

The deal with Cuba was initiated by former Health CS Sicily Kariuki as part of the government's efforts to improve access and quality of health care in Kenya, especially at the grassroots level.

However, the deal faced criticism from some quarters, including legislators and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), which argued that it was a waste of resources and an insult to local doctors who were unemployed or underpaid.

According to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, each Cuban doctor was paid a monthly salary of about Sh795,000 ($5,300), while local doctors in the same category received between Sh240,000 and Sh345,000 ($1,600 and $2,300).

The Cuban doctors also enjoyed better travel and housing allowances than their Kenyan counterparts.

The KMPDU also accused the Cuban doctors of being incompetent and unprofessional, citing cases of misdiagnosis, negligence and malpractice.

The union demanded that the government terminate the deal and instead hire more Kenyan doctors and equip local hospitals with adequate facilities and medicines.

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