NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 20 – Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu has defended the government’s decision to employ doctors from Tanzania, saying it will help address the current shortage and improve 1:6,000 doctor patient ratio.
He refuted claims that there are local doctors facing unemployment, and emphasised that the initiative will benefit all Kenyans and should be viewed positively.
The Health CS further explained that the plan will address some of the concerns raised by doctors in their recently signed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which stressed the need for reduced working hours and improved service delivery.
“We have moved as a ministry to be able to reduce that ratio and to be able to have more of their colleagues working so that they can work the recommended 40 hours,” he stated.
He further indicated that the foreign doctors are qualified since the curriculum within the East African Community is standardised.
“Having heard their position, we are just moving to address that and there is nothing wrong with it. Within the East African Community, the curriculum for medical doctors has been harmonised,” he said.
He explained that once a doctor is registered in one country, there is no need for them to go through the same process in a foreign land.
“Once you are registered in one country you do not require registration in another country, there are no exams to be done, schools of medicine are assessed by a joint team from the East African Community,” he said.
He urged any local doctor who is in need of employment to report to government health offices and promised that they will be deployed to an institution.
“Doctors are the only cadre who are absorbed in the public service from internship all the way but some opt to leave public employment to go to private practice or to go study. Some have become journalists, others have become pilots. It is wrong to tell Kenyans that there are doctors on the streets,” he emphasised.
“I want them to seek employment in the public sector and I want to assure them that they will get it. It is not in our interests to bring foreign doctors while our own are on the streets. Kenyans should not be taken through that route.”
He said that the foreign doctors will serve a contract for two years which can be renewed.
“What we are doing is beefing it up with a contract of two years as we improve our own training so that we can reach that ratio we are targeting,” he stated.
He allayed fears that there was any sinister motive in the recruitment stating that the government was responding to the issues doctors raised in their CBA.
“Therefore it is a good intention of the government, not an erosion. We are just responding to the very issues they raised in their CBA and being alive to that, if there are doctors available either in the East African Community or elsewhere, we will go for them because we have the capacity to absorb them,” he stated.
“If you are qualified and registered and you arrive in Kerugoya, you will be able to see patients. They speak Swahili, they are part of us. The essence is to be able to fast track how we can improve the quality of service, how we can address the very issues doctors raise.”
He cautioned against side shows in the issue saying emphasis should be on serving Kenyans well.
“If addressing those issues becomes another debate, I do not think that is the direction we want to go. I want Kenyans to know that there is no doctor who is unemployed in the streets of this country because he cannot find employment in the public sector. If there is a doctor who is on the streets, it is by choice,” he stated.
The government is expected to bring in 500 Tanzanian doctors who are to start working in the country.
They will be posted to public hospitals and will not be involved in private practice.