Dar es Salaam. There were mixed feelings among Kenyan medical professionals yesterday as it emerged that Tanzania had accepted their government’s request for the supply of 500 doctors to help curtail a huge shortage of health personnel in the neighbouring country.
President John Magufuli announced that Tanzania would send 500 doctors immediately, and directed authorities to facilitate their recruitment to grant Kenya’s request.
The President made the announcement in the morning at State House in Dar es Salaam after holding talks with a Kenyan government delegation led by Health minister Cleopa Mailu and Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, who represented the Council of Governors.
“Kenyan problems are our problems, and thus we shall give them our doctors to alleviate the shortage and help treat our brothers and sisters in Kenya,” said President Magufuli in a statement released soon after the talks.
The Head of State said he was pleased to hear that President Uhuru Kenyatta had assured that the Tanzanian doctors would be given competitive salaries, housing, transport and other incentives to ensure their stay was pleasant.
Tanzanian Health minister Ummy Mwalimu who attended the talks said the 500 doctors would be sourced from among graduants who are yet to land employment and those that are not in the government payroll in Tanzania.
“Starting from today (yesterday) the ministry will provide information online on how to apply for the job opportunities in Kenya. The application deadline is set for March 27,” said the minister.
She said after the application deadline, successful aspirants would be notified in two to three weeks time.
Successful candidates will sign a two-year employment contract with the government of Kenya.
Ms Mwalimu noted that the government would consider first-degree doctors who must have completed internship and are members of the Medical Council of Tanganyika.
And at a press conference later in her office, the minister urged Tanzanian medical doctors to use the window to apply saying it was a great opportunity for exposure.
She also explained that the labour export did not mean that Tanzania now had enough doctors in its public health system, but that the government did not have enough funds to employ the required numbers.
A senior ministry official, Dr Laurian Ndumbaro, pointed out that every year Tanzania produces 1,000 to 1,200 medical doctors, but the government can only afford to employ 400 to 450 of them.
“Even in the coming budget, we only intend to employ about 450 doctors yet more than 1,000 medical doctors are expected to graduate this year alone,” he said.
Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) director-general Lawrence Mseru added that for a long time Tanzania had been admired by other countries for having qualified doctors because of the quality of its health training institutions.
“A number of medical doctors have been employed overseas due to the good reputation of our medical practitioners,” he said.
In Nairobi, it emerged that it would take a week or so to process recruitment procedures for the 500 Tanzanian doctors who will be okayed to work in Kenya.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board said yesterday it welcomed the Tanzanian doctors and promised a swift process to accommodate them. The Kenyan board believe that the Tanzanian doctors would help address the medics shortage and also mitigate effects of the just-ended strike that lasted for about 100 days.
But a Kenyan doctors’ union appeared to suggest that the government had overlooked their demands, which had led to a crippling strike that went for more than three months. Huge salary demands and other expectations forced the government to look for help from neighbouring countries and elsewhere.
The Kenyan union also set conditions for the Tanzanian doctors, with the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) saying that doctors in Kenya would only be ready to work with their Tanzanian counterparts if the latter are recruited through the KMPDU -- a process that would take not less than three months, according to secretary-general Ouma Oluga.
Mr Oluga’s assertions were, however, dismissed by the chief executive officer of the Kenya Medical Board, Mr Daniel Yumbya, who assured that the Tanzanian doctors needed not be recruited under the PMPDU process.
He told the Nation Media Group yesterday that the doctors whom the Kenyan government requested from Tanzania won’t need to do exams or internships because medical doctors in the region are trained under the same East African protocols.
According to Mr Yumbya, the Tanzanian doctors would be recruited “provided they…are registered with the Medical Council of Tanganyika.”
But the KMPDU, a professional body for doctors in Kenya, which has the same roles as the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT), says it would also wait to confirm with the doctors’ body in Tanzania before allowing the doctors into the Kenyan medical community.
Mr Oluga said: “There are about 1,400 Kenyan doctors awaiting employment as we speak despite the severe shortages. It is a good thing that Kenya has acknowledged the severe doctor shortage to the neighbouring countries.”
The KMPDU believes it’s ironical for the Kenyan government to hire Tanzanian doctors at a time when the health sector financing system in Kenya is not in order.
“It would be very costly and, therefore, a show of imprudent public finance management to have 500 Tanzanian doctors at Ksh20,000 (Sh400,000) per day in terms of logistics of housing and transport and still incur recurrent costs of salaries, when counties have been rejecting Kenyan doctors sometimes on the basis of budget restrictions and tribe,’’ said Mr Oluga who was among the doctors jailed at one point during the strike.