October 12, 2023 -The Kenyan government declared this Wednesday the termination of a contentious six-year arrangement with Cuba.
Initiated in 2017, this program facilitated the employment of Cuban medical professionals in Kenya, while simultaneously sending Kenyan doctors to Cuba for specialized training sessions.
Wage gap sparks dissatisfaction
A significant point of discord was the substantial wage disparity between Cuban and Kenyan doctors under this program.
The Cuban participants garnered more than double the average salary allotted to their Kenyan peers.
Opponents consistently argued that the financial resources allocated for the Cuban doctors’ salaries would be more effectively utilized if invested in enhancing Kenya’s medical infrastructure and compensating its indigenous medical workforce.
Ministerial announcement received positively
In a public address in Nairobi, Health Minister Nakumicha Wafula officially announced the discontinuation of the Kenya-Cuba medical collaboration, eliciting applause and affirmative acclamations from the attendant health industry representatives.
Wafula committed to prioritizing the welfare of the national health workforce in the post-Cuba deal era.
Details of the deal
The 2017 agreement enabled 50 Kenyan doctors to pursue specialized training in Cuba, while 100 Cuban doctors were stationed at various county hospitals across Kenya to fortify the provision of medical services.
This bilateral initiative, however, was not universally well-received, encountering criticism from legislative members and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union from its inception.
Union opposition and criticism
The union expressed its disapproval of the program, characterizing it as a misguided allocation of resources, especially in a scenario where numerous Kenyan doctors and specialists were grappling with unemployment.
They advocated for the redirected use of the funds, earmarked for the Cuban doctors’ salaries, towards the hiring of Kenyan medical personnel and procurement of crucial medical apparatus for domestic hospitals often operating under resource constraints.
Financial disparities highlighted
According to Kenya’s Salaries and Remuneration Commission, a Cuban doctor under the program received a monthly remuneration of approximately $5,300. In contrast, a Kenyan doctor in an equivalent position earned between $1,600 and $2,300.
Additionally, the Cuban doctors were beneficiaries of superior travel and housing allowances, further widening the compensation gap.
Reports are that doctors and nurses in Kenya have often gone on strike demanding better pay and working conditions.