Seth Onyango @SethManex
The government will pay Cuba Sh400,000 per month for each of the 100 Cuban doctors it intends to deploy to the counties. Sources intimated to People Daily that Kenya will pay $4,000 for each doctor, but Cuba on the other hand will pay each of the doctors $1,500 (Sh150,000) and retain $2,500 (Sh250,000).
According to the deal signed between Kenya and Cuba, two doctors will be posted to each county where the devolved units will be required to provide them with two-bedroomed houses, security and a car with driver. Most of the doctors, whose title at home is “Family Doctor” hold several specialisations unlike General Practitioners in Kenya.
They will be distributed to remote parts of the country to particularly deal with primary healthcare issues on which they have been specialised. Cuba has the best healthcare system in Latin America, according to the Pan-American Health Organisation, boasting the region’s highest longevity and lowest infant, child and maternal mortality rates.
Some 50,000 Cuban health professionals are working abroad in more than 70 countries, majority in developing countries. In Kenya, the lowest-paid doctor (intern) earns Sh206,989, inclusive of allowances, while the highest earner goes home with Sh582,954.
The lowest-paid doctor and the highest-paid get an extra emergency call allowance of between Sh66,000 and Sh80,000. Though Health Cabinet secretary Sicily Kariuki, who signed the deal, declined to comment on the issue yesterday, sources in the ministry said all arrangements have been finalised.
According to the source, a similar deal was signed between Kenya and Cuba in 2009 when Anyang’ Nyong’o was Helath minister, but could not be implemented because of technicalities involved.
In what fuels fears of a possible sabotage by local doctors, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) has opposed the move as an unnecessary burden to the taxpayers.
“The decision to import doctors from Cuba was done in haste with no regard to the more than 2,000 doctors including 171 specialists available for employment,” argued the KMPDU secretary general Ouma Oluga. Oluga said hiring 100 Cuban doctors whom he argues will be too stretched across the counties, may not alleviate the dire shortage of doctor-patient ratio.
Already, 100 medics from the island are attending classes in their capital Havana to learn English, Kenyan public health system and the local culture to prepare them for the assignment.
Once in the country, they will be deployed across all the 47 counties as part of the government’s plan to strengthen Kenya’s healthcare system. Those who are highly specialised will be posted to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret to bolster capacity to tackle critical illnesses.
During her recent trip in Cuba, Health CS said 50 Kenyan doctors will also travel to Cuba to receive specialised training, which will be mostly on family medicine.
According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) Cuba received an estimated $8.2 billion (Sh820 billion) from its medical workers abroad in 2014, making its medical aid programme the primary source of foreign-currency receipts.
By outsourcing doctors from Cuba, Kenya will be tapping into the Cuban Health Paradox, as it has come to be known.
The Island nation obtained the description after the world failed to comprehend how an impoverished nation that for long lived under sanctions of its giant neighbour, the US, could build an very elaborate healthcare system with its population’s life expectancy rivalling that of the West.
Cuba runs a national health system and assumes fiscal and administrative responsibility for the health care of all its citizens. There are no private hospitals or clinics as all health services are government-run.
In the 1950s the number of doctors per thousand of the population ranked above Britain, France and the Netherlands and third place after Uruguay and Argentina.
Now, Cuba has the third-highest doctor-patient ratio in the world with 70,000 trained medics, 20 per cent of which are in foreign missions. In 2015 it became the first nation in the world to officially eliminate the transfusion of HIV from mother to child.