Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki has signed the contract to bring 100 Cuban medical specialists to Kenya, reports the Daily Nation.
Ms Kariuki, who signed the contract on her current trip to Havana, Cuba, said 50 Kenyan doctors will also travel to Cuba for specialised training, mostly on family medicine.
President Uhuru Kenyatta sanctioned the bilateral agreement allowing Cuban doctors to work in Kenya during a recent visit to Cuba.
The Heath CS said the deployment of the doctors to rural areas will help improve access to specialist medical services and reduce dependency referral hospitals.
Ms Kariuki CS said the contracted medics will help in the transfer of knowledge at the rural level.
Earlier this week, the Head of the Presidential Delivery Unit Nzioka Waita said the government move is meant to improve public health sector performance in specialties including ontology, nephrology and dermatology.
“Specialists in these areas are few and far between, yet their services are in high demand,” Mr Nzioka said.
“Our doctor-to-patient ratio remains one doctor to every 16,000 patients which means we are not anywhere near meeting the ratios required for the provision of quality healthcare to a majority of Kenyans.”
The World Health Organisation’s recommended staffing ratio is 23 health workers for every 10,000 people.
The government has ignored objections from the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) and Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (KMPPDU) over the Cuban doctors’ deal.
KMPPDU secretary-general Ouma Oluga has asked the Health ministry on previous occasions to employ the more than 1,000 “unemployed local doctors” before flying in the Cubans.
On his part, KMA secretary-general Prof Lukoye Atwoli said in Mombasa last week that importing 100 Cuban doctors would deny local experts jobs.
Contacted for comment over the latest development, Dr Oluga, who is attending the devolution conference in Kakamega, declined to issue a statement, saying the union was yet to meet to deliberate on the ministry’s move.
“We shall be having a union National Executive Council meeting on Saturday, and among the issues scheduled to be discussed is the action by the government. I will issue a comprehensive response representing the union’s position after the meeting,” said Dr Oluga.
Kenya Union of Clinical Officers chairperson Mr Peter Wachira also added his voice to the medics’ disapproval, saying the government needed to consult widely with the medical fraternity and other stakeholders before effecting the move.
“In a country where we have over 7,000 clinical officers, 25,000 nurses and more than 1,000 doctors unemployed after expensive and rigorous training, the government must ensure proper stakeholders’ consultations if there is to be cooperation at the work place,” said Mr Wachira.
Despite the presidential commitment to provide every Kenyan with universal health coverage by 2022, Kenya has a current shortfall of 42,800 health workers.
Currently, 63,000 health workers including 20,981 nurses, 3,284 clinical officers, 2,286 medical officers, 405 dentists, 1104 pharmacists, 293 radiologists and 22 radiation protection personnel are employed in public healthcare facilities.
The sector has been rocked in the recent past with two lengthy strikes by doctors and nurses that crippled the entire public health care system with doctors ending their 100-day strike on March 14, 2017, after which nurses downed their tools on June 5, 2017, and returned to work on November 2, 2017.