Why MPs want Cuban doctors out of country

Dr Yanleys Herera, a Cuban heart specialist, attends to a patient at the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital in Nakuru on June 16, 2020. [File, Standard]

A parliamentary committee wants the national government not to renew the contracts of Cuban doctors who have been in the country for the last six years.

Speaking in Mombasa, members of the Departmental Committee on Health said the Cubans have served their purpose and it is time they returned to their country.

Endebess MP Robert Pukose, who chairs the committee, led other members in asking the State to instead employ medics working under the Universal Health Coverage programme in counties.

The MPs said the continued stay of the Cubans in the country has disadvantaged Kenyan doctors with similar training but yet to be employed.

“The Cuban doctors have served their purpose and it is time they went back to their country and their place taken by their Kenyan counterparts because their salaries are enough to employ at least three Kenyan doctors,” said Dr Pukose during a meeting with the State Department of Public Health and Professional Standards.

“We have even Kenyan doctors who have done family medicine, including some of my classmates, who are practising family medicine. These doctors can now take up that role,” he added.

Pukose, however, inquired about the whereabouts of the Kenyan doctors who went for an exchange programme in Havana, Cuba.

“This exchange programme has a whole bunch of our doctors who went to Cuba for capacity building. Where did they go? Pukose posed.

In 2017, Kenya signed a health agreement with Cuba, which, according to the Ministry of Health, actualised an exchange programme where Cuban doctors would come into the country to help fill gaps in county hospitals while Kenyan doctors were flown to Cuba for specialised training.

Endebess MP Robert Pukose. [File, Standard]

Under the agreement with Kenya, the first batch of Cuban doctors touched down in Nairobi from Havana in 2018. This included 53 family doctors and 47 specialists. Fifty Kenyan health practitioners also flew to Cuba for specialised training.

The Cuban doctors had come at what was said to be the request of county governments, and their contract would last two years.

Doctors from Cuba were deployed to different counties like Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Lamu and Vihiga. Their mission was to help in areas like nephrology, radiology, orthopaedics, surgery and neurology.

Further, the doctors would train local specialists to offer the same kind of care found in Cuba.

During the meeting with the State Department for Public Health and Professional Standards, Webuye East MP Martin Pepela Wanyonyi sought to know the extent of the Cuban doctors’ contributions to Kenya's health sector.

Mary Muthoni Muriuki, the Principal Secretary for the State Department of Public Health and Professional Standards, defended the invitation of the Cuban doctors to the country, saying they have improved family medicine.

According to Ms Muriuki, the Cuban doctors arrived in Kenya when it was crippled with curative more than preventive measures.