BLOG: Why Cuban doctors in Kenya don’t deserve treatment they’re getting - Nairobi News
5 months ago, 28 June 13:17
Cuban medical missions abroad are perhaps one of the most significant legacies of the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The programme involves Cuban doctors offering health care services in host countries, often in impoverished rural communities where there’s little access.
The programme stemmed from Cuba’s foreign policy objectives of anti-colonialism and humanitarianism in the 1960s. It became one way in which Cuba could avoid the isolation intended by the trade embargo imposed by the US and its expulsion from the Organisation of American States (OAS).
Well over 131,993 Cuban doctors have taken part in international missions in 107 countries. Kenya is the latest. The first 50 specialists arrived in the country recently, with 50 more to follow. All are expected to work in under served rural areas.
But their arrival has been met with a storm of protest. Some Kenyan health professionals have strongly opposed their arrival on the grounds that they’ll be taking away local jobs.
My understanding of the work of Cuban doctors has been greatly influenced by the fact that I spent 7 years studying medicine in Cuba, one of thousands of students from all over the globe who have had the opportunity to study medicine on the island. The experience gave me a keen understanding of how the Cuban health system works. It also helped me understand what lies behind the medical missions programme.
NOT WANTING THEM
I accept that the way the programme is implemented in countries like Kenya leaves a lot to be desired. But I would also argue that the services being provided by Cuban doctors is invaluable and the reasons for not wanting them in Kenya are not justified.
The national benefit is paramount
The current fears of the Kenyan medical fraternity are understandable. But their fears may be based on misinformation. Prior consultations between Kenyan government officials and the medical fraternity would have gone a long way to allaying these.
Nevertheless, I believe that Kenyan doctors should focus on the national benefits of the programme. Cuban doctors are sent to rural, under-served areas – areas that local doctors often refuse to work in. In these communities, the mere presence of a doctor can make a tremendous difference in health outcomes.
In addition, the Cuban doctors being sent to Kenya are highly specialised in areas such as oncology and nephrology, areas of medicine which are in demand the world over. Their presence can only improve access to specialised medical care while reducing congestion in referral hospitals.
CUBA’S HEALTHCARE MISSIONS
Despite a level of economic stagnation, Cuba has managed to maintain a universal health care system viewed as a model for other countries. Current data shows the doctor to patient ratio in Cuba is well above the United Nation’s target of 1:1000, at 7.5:1000 in 2014. By comparison, Kenya has a ratio of 0.204 doctors per 1000 patients.
Cuban trained doctors have been praised the world over for the level of service and compassion they offer. There are numerous examples of work that they’ve done. For example, Cuba were sent doctors to South Africa during a brain-drain ...
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