Kenya and Cuba have signed a new cooperation in which 101 Cuban doctors will travel to Kenya as part of a medical exchange programme between the two countries.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on Monday signed the new deal with Cuban Minister of Public Health Dr Jose Angel Portal Miranda in the Caribbean nation.
“The agreement was signed during a meeting that makes part of the CS’s three-week visit to Cuba on a mission seeking to improve Kenya’s primary healthcare. The visit will also see the CS pick lessons from Cuba on the country’s world-class primary healthcare delivery model, and its highly successful programme to combat malaria,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement.
The two counterparts appreciated the good working relationship between the two countries since 2001, particularly in the health sector.
CS Kagwe lauded Cuba for its efforts in supporting Kenya’s heath sector through the doctors’ exchange programmes. He added that the contribution of Cuban doctors has been evident during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There are many opportunities in Cuba that remain untapped, especially in the area of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and vaccines. We look forward to a more robust collaboration,” Kagwe said.
The CS further said Kenya takes the security of the doctors seriously, and that President Uhuru Kenyatta remains committed to the safe return of doctors Assel Herrera and Landy Rodriguez who were abducted by suspected al Shabaab militants in Northeastern two years ago.
In March 2018, Kenya began implementing a health agreement signed with Cuba in 2017, an exchange programme that involved bringing into the country Cuban doctors to help fill gaps in county hospitals.
“Just recently, 90 Kenyan doctors arrived back into the country from Cuba after receiving specialised training as part of the exchange programme. These doctors are being absorbed into county hospitals to help boost health delivery capacity at that level,” MoH said in the statement.
Additional Cuban health professionals have arrived in the country to help in mapping out key mosquito breeding sites across the country as part of measures to control the disease. This will be implemented through a two-year project on the use of biological methods for the control of mosquito vectors.
Kenyan medics have, however, opposed the importation of Cuban doctors.
In July last year, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union maintained its rejection to the government’s hiring of Cuban medics.
KMPDU accused the government of bypassing Kenyan medics and opting for foreigners. It thus demanded that the government employs 1,000 jobless Kenyan doctors and enhance counties’ medical workforce, suggesting a rate of at least 50 new doctors per county.
“The importation of the Cuban doctors by the government is in bad taste. We have health workers who are qualified and have been trained with the taxpayers’ money but the government is not considering them, “then KMPDU acting Secretary-General Chibanzi Mwachonda said.
“They are specialized doctors in Internal medicine, oncology, cardiology, renal and paediatrics. With COVID-19 cases rising, these specialized doctors will go a long way in supporting our doctors in managing the disease and exchanging in terms of skill development.”
The government received 100 Cuban daoctors two years ago, including 47 specialists and 53 family physicians, to address human resource challenges that have hit the public health sector since independence.