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Kenya: Government ends deal to swap doctors with Cuba

Cuban doctors in Kenya   -  
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Kenya's government announced Wednesday it would not be renewing a 6-year-old deal that saw Cuban doctors employed in Kenya while those from the East African country travelled to Cuba for specialized training.

The program was unpopular with Kenya's main doctors union, partly because the Cuban doctors received more than double the average salary of their Kenyan counterparts. Critics argued that money would be better spent on Kenya's medical infrastructure and on its own doctors.

Health Minister Nakumicha Wafula announced the end of the Cuba deal at a meeting with health industry workers in the capital, Nairobi, and was met with applause and shouts of “yes, yes!" Wafula said the ministry would ensure that the country's health workers are “well taken care of.”

Under the deal signed in 2017, 50 Kenyans were sent to Cuba to undergo specialized training, while 100 Cubans were dispatched to county level hospitals in Kenya to help improve services.

The move was heavily criticized at the time by legislators and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, which said it was a waste of resources when the country was struggling with thousands of unemployed doctors and specialists.

The union said the money used to pay the Cuban doctors' high salaries could have been used to hire Kenyan doctors or to buy medical equipment for local hospitals which often lack basic facilities and medicines.

Kenya’s Salaries and Renumeration Commission has said that each Cuban doctor was paid a monthly salary of about $5,300, while local doctors in the same category received between $1600 and $2300. The Cuban doctors also had better travel and housing allowances

Doctors and nurses Kenya have often gone on strike demanding better pay and working conditions.