With 3,800 of doctors who graduated in the country since 2014 being unemployed, Tanzania has agreed to provide 500 medics to Kenya to reduce shortages, especially now when their Kenyan counterparts are still on strike.
President John Magufuli agreed to provide the doctors at the State House in Dar es Salaam yesterday, after holding talks with a delegation of Kenyan leaders sent by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The head of a delegation from Kenya who doubles as the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Dr Cleopa Mahilu, told Dr Magufuli that due to the ongoing strike and the devolution drive in the health sector, it was established that the country had a shortage of medical practitioners that could not be solved by doctors trained in Kenya only, but through assistance from other countries.
Flanked by the Kisumu Governor, Mr Jack Ranguma, Dr Mahilu said the Kenyan government was ready to pay the 500 Tanzanian doctors well, starting from salaries, allowances and housing facilities.
Dr Magufuli gave a nod to the Kenyan request, saying the two countries were relatives, neighbours and friends, directing the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, to expedite the process of getting the doctors so that they can quickly rush to the neighbouring country to offer their services.
“The problems of Kenyans are equally ours; we will give you 500 doctors so that they can offer their services to our relatives in Kenya and because you gave an assurance to accommodate and pay them well, I have no problem with your request,’’ said the head of state.
In her remarks, Ms Mwalimu said her ministry was ready to provide the doctors immediately, insisting that Tanzania had enough and best doctors who graduated from universities, but were yet to be employed while others had their contracts expiring.
In an interview with the ‘Sunday News,’ Ms Mwalimu said currently, Tanzania has over 8,290 doctors who are registered with the Medical Council of Tanganyika (MCT). On average, she added, every year, medical practitioners who graduate from different universities range between 1,000 and 1,200.
“I therefore want to urge all doctors in Tanzania who are not in the public service to apply for these jobs.” The minister said that the ministry shall consider various qualifications, among them; applicants must have completed an internship programme and registered with the MCT.
“We shall advertise these posts today because we have enough doctors in the country to be taken to Kenya. According to Ms Mwalimu, Tanzania was still facing a challenge of doctors in hospitals in
some specialties, but the ministry’s budget was not enough to employ all of them. “This is an opportunity for unemployed doctors to get a job,” she added, insisting that after interviews the doctors will be sent to Kenya where they will be employed on a two-year contract.
She said that it was normal to provide doctors to other countries, saying even Tanzania had doctors from foreign countries, who are working in various referral hospitals.
As of yesterday, according to a Kenyan newspaper, The Standard, patients were still scrambling for medical services from the country’s top referral health facility – Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).
The hospital remained technically nonfunctional as medical practitioners stayed away, despite doctors recently signing a pact with the government to end the strike.
The doctors instead held a meeting and resolved not to report back to work despite the hospital insisting that 12 doctors who had been sacked had been reinstated. Another 48 who had received show-cause letters also had those letters withdrawn, according to the hospital.
The hospital had a relatively high flow of human traffic even as the entrance teemed with security officers, ostensibly stationed to prevent the media from getting a glimpse of what was really happening inside and behind the walls.
But, doctors were defiant that they will not go back to work. The medical services in Kenya remain paralysed for over three months.