The Kenyan government has hired 500 Tanzanian doctors to support its ailing health sector just days after health providers in Kenya called off their 100-day-old strike.
The deal was announced by the Tanzanian President John Pombe Magifuli in a statement issued by his office on Saturday, insisting that his government was ready to dispatch the 500 doctors immediately as Tanzania has many jobless graduate doctors waiting to be employed, according to VOA News.
“After the strike it has been revealed that the country [Kenya] has an acute shortage of doctors that cannot be solved by depending on those still in school but by hiring from other countries,” part of the statement read.
Kenyan doctors working in the public health sector went on strike in December last year demanding for better pay and improved working conditions, and agreed to resume work on 14 March following protracted negotiations with the Kenyan government.
Confirming the deal, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for health Cleopa Mailu said the decision to bring foreign doctors in to the country was part of the government’s pledge to improve the health sector by employing more doctors.
“We have so many government health centers that need doctors. We recently had a doctors’ strike and one of their reasons for their strike was that there were not enough doctors to attend to patients,” Mailu was quoted by VOA News.
Kenyan doctors have criticized the move saying the Kenyan government should start by hiring the more than 1,000 trained physicians in the country who are currently unemployed.
According to Dr. Elly Nyain, a member of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU), the problem of shortage of medical doctors cuts across the entire East African region.
“Tanzania is actually even worse off than we are in terms of the doctor-patient ratio,” Nyaim told VOA News.
According to the World Health organization (WHO), the Kenyan doctor-to-patient ratio stands at 1 doctor for 16,000 patient, against the recommended ratio of 1 doctor for 300 patients.
The organization also estimates that there is only one doctor for every 20,000 patients in Tanzania.
On Sunday, the Kenyan opposition NASA threatened to block the government’s plan to hire foreign doctors insisting that the government must first settle its problems with Kenyan doctors before hiring from outside.
Their sentiments were later echoed by the Tanzania Medical Association, which faulted the deal saying it was not consulted. The association also cited issues of security for its members and requested the Tanzanian government to halt the process to allow proper consultations to be done.