The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) has once again taken issue with the government’s move to hire medics from Cuba.
Speaking during its 8th weekly Covid-19 briefing, the KMPDU Acting Secretary-General Dr. Chibanzi Mwachonda said the government had bypassed its own medics opting for foreigners.
“The importation of the Cuban doctors by the government is in bad taste. We have health workers who are qualified and have been trained with the taxpayers' money but the government is not considering them, “said Dr. Mwachonda.
KMPDU is proposing for the employment of 1,000 jobless Kenyan doctors instead, and ramping up of county medical workforce at the rate of at least 50 new doctors per county.
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The Union has also agitated for a medical worker's insurance compensation scheme, saying the exposure to Covid-19 is increasingly pointing to long term health complications to the medical practitioners who are the first line of defense in the war against Covid-19.
Twenty Cuban doctors are already in the country, after the government struck a deal to have them work for a period of at least six months.
“The doctors will serve and offer services in the next six months. The idea is for these doctors to work with our doctors to gain knowledge from each other. Since 2018 we have worked to improve healthcare services with the Cuban government,” said CS Mutahi Kagwe.
According to the CS Kagwe, the consignment will include a team of specialists to help ramp up the country’s ability to handle chronic illnesses such as cancer and diabetes.
“They are specialized doctors in Internal medicine, Oncology, Cardiology, Renal, and Pediatrics. With the Covid-19 cases rising, these specialized doctors will go a long way in supporting our doctors in managing the disease and exchanging in terms of skill development,” added Kagwe.
The team will be based at the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral, and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) in Nairobi.
This will help improve the hospital’s capacity, and also the country’s strength in handling serious illnesses in the country.
“The center which will be ready for use in about nine months will see no need for Kenyans to go to India or South Africa to access PET-scan machines and other key equipment to diagnose and treat cancer.
The center will also set the first public manufacturing plant for consumables used in the PET-scan machines. This machine called Cyclotron and is only available in South Africa and North Africa,” he added.
Statistics from Kenya's ministry of health shows that there are 27,000 cancer-related deaths and 40,000 new diagnoses annually.
According to Kagwe, President Uhuru Kenyatta has approved the project to save the lives of Kenyans who wait for long periods to get the proper and fast diagnosis of cancer. The project is expected to begin in the next few weeks.
Two years ago, the Kenyan government received 100 Cuban doctors – 47 specialists and 53 family physicians – who were flown in to address human resource challenges that have rocked the public health sector since independence.
The doctors were spread across the country, in the 47 counties to handle special cases, serving Kenyans.
However, security threats have been a concern for some of the medics who were deployed to the northern part of the country. The al-Shabaab militia causing mayhem and abducting two of them.
Assel Correa, a general physician, and Landy Rodriguez, a surgeon, were kidnapped in Mandera on April 12, 2019.
Since then, nothing apart from “They are fine” statements from the government has been forthcoming. Their whereabouts unknown.
"The Kenyan authorities affirmed that both doctors, Assel Herrera and Landy Rodriguez, are well and they will continue their efforts, as well as those carried out by our country, for their safe return to Cuba," Ines Maria Chapman, vice president of the Cuban Council of Ministers, said in a previous statement.
Perhaps, the decision to have them within the capital was informed by the unfortunate situation that has left the rest of the doctors a worried lot.
The government also said the medics were not given special perks, more than what the rest of their colleagues are given.
“They are not given any special treatment. They are doctors and are paid as per what other doctors in their capacities are paid,” said The Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman.
This comes as Kenyan health workers continue to lament about the lack of goodwill from the government, saying the welfare package promised by the government is yet to reach some of them.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had directed the ministry of health to fast-track the disbursement of over Sh 3 billion to cushion health workers from the effects of the scourge.
This comes as the country’s disease burden continues to spike, nearing the 14,000 mark and affecting the medical fraternity.
One doctor, Doreen Lugaliki, and two nurses have already succumbed to the illness with more than 546 others infected in the country.