Kenya Cancels Unpopular Doctor Swap Deal with Cuba

In this photo taken Sunday, April 5, 2020, laboratory technician Irene Ooko attends to a patient seeking a test for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, at the Pathologists Lancet Kenya laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya. (Brian Inganga/AP Photo)

Nairobi, Kenya | THE BLACK EXAMINER | Kenya’s government has announced its decision to terminate a 6-year-old arrangement involving Cuban doctors working in Kenya while Kenyan doctors received specialized training in Cuba. This program faced criticism, particularly from Kenya’s main doctors’ union, primarily due to the significantly higher salaries paid to Cuban doctors compared to their Kenyan counterparts. Critics argued that these funds could be better allocated to bolster Kenya’s medical infrastructure and support its own doctors.

The announcement to end the Cuban deal was made by Health Minister Nakumicha Wafula during a meeting with healthcare professionals in Nairobi. This decision received enthusiastic applause and shouts of approval from the attendees. Minister Wafula assured that the Ministry would ensure the well-being of the country’s healthcare workers.

Under the 2017 agreement, 50 Kenyan medical professionals were sent to Cuba for specialized training, while 100 Cuban doctors were deployed to county-level hospitals in Kenya to enhance healthcare services. However, this move faced substantial criticism from lawmakers and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union, which deemed it a misallocation of resources. They argued that the high salaries paid to Cuban doctors could have been better used to employ Kenyan doctors and procure essential medical equipment for local hospitals, which often suffer from a lack of basic facilities and medicines.

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Notably, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission of Kenya revealed that each Cuban doctor received a monthly salary of approximately US$5,300, while local doctors in the same category earned between US$1,600 and US$2,300. Cuban doctors also enjoyed better travel and housing allowances. In Kenya, healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses, have frequently gone on strike to demand improved pay and working conditions.

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