By D S
In response to the just-resolved strike by the country’s doctors, the Jubilee Administration reached an agreement with the government of President John Magufuli to import 500 doctors from neighboring Tanzania. However, the decision was rescinded within seventy-two hours of being issued amidst complaints from both the Kenyan and Tanzanian sides.
Kenya’s decision to seek help from a country whose development trajectory it has traditionally ridiculed is a remarkable reversal of fortunes. It also denotes a failed campaign promise to “ensure that every Kenyan gets quality and affordable healthcare”. The decision is even more disturbing when viewed against choices such as the laptop program, salaries, travel expenses and pension/retirement payments to ex-officials who are also some of the country’s wealthiest personalities.
According to an article in the Guardian newspaper, it takes up to sixteen (16) years to train doctors in the UK before they are deployed to hospitals. This includes 4 to 5 years for bachelor’s degree, 3 to 8 years depending on their field of specialization.
(Kenya’s educational system is partly based on that of the British hence the foregoing benchmark).
A very simple and uncomplicated back-of-an-envelope analysis on the state of Kenya’s medical sector would go something like this:
The country attained independence in 1963 or fifty-four years ago.
Let’s assume that the governments of Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki and now Uhuru Kenyatta put the health and welfare of her citizens as a priority. Let’s also assume that each successive government, starting with Jomo’s, added to (the healthcare) infrastructure and personnel that was already in place. Were the foregoing scenarios to play out as described, Kenya’s first batch of doctors would have been deployed to the available hospitals in 1979. The next batch in 1995 and so on. The other assumption is that these governments also placed as a priority, access to healthcare throughout the country i.e. roads, related utilities, water, etc.
According to figures from the CIA Factbook, Kenya had approximately 65,520 hospital beds (1.4/1000 beds/patient) in 2015. That’s 1,213 beds per/year – since 1963. The country also had 0.2 doctors for every 1000 patients or a total of 9,360 or 174 doctors/year since independence
South Korea, one of Kenya’s peer back in the 70s had 529,360 beds (10.4/1000) and 108,926 doctors (2.14/1000). On these two metrics alone, S. Korea lapped over Kenya’s health sector several times:
65,520 v. 529,360 beds and 9,360 v. 108,926 doctors!
How did Kenya end up with 1/8 the number of hospital beds as South Korea and 1/11 the number of doctors?
If recent events at the Ministry of Health are any indication, then the answer is straightforward. Corruption and misappropriation of public resources has, over the years, seen Kenya’s healthcare sector underfunded and used as a piggy-bank for those connected or related to her leaders. These are also the very people who can afford the best medical treatment money can buy – at home and abroad.
(I’d add twisted priorities as another reason why Kenya’s healthcare continues to lag behind that of her peers and why she imported doctors from Tanzania.)
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s wife First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, her sister-in-law Nyokabi Muthama and the president’s cousin Kathleen Kihanya have all been implicated in a scandal at the Ministry of Health involving the misappropriation of KSh. 5Billion!
Nyokabi and Kathleen are directors at Sundales (or Sandales) International Ltd., a company that received multiple questionable payments from the ministry.
The same Nyokabi was a “Trust Director” in her sister-in-law’s “Beyond Zero Campaign”. The seemingly altruistic pet project of Kenya’s First Lady has been stained by the same scandal at the Ministry of Health; so much such that the 2017 marathon was cancelled because it had become “politicized”; a euphemism for “under a cloud of corruption”.
So summarized, Kenya was compelled to ask Tanzania for help with doctors due to theft of resources intended for their salary and related equipment and material meant for the sector.
As written elsewhere, one can draw a straight line from a corrupt presidency and his family, missing billions and a healthcare sector/ministry in crisis.