Cuban doctors are set to join the list of super-paid government employees following their placement in Job Group S that comes with a take-home pay of up to Sh882,180 per month.
That compensation band puts the doctors from the Central American nation above principal secretaries, parliamentary majority and minority leaders, the Vice-Chief of Defence Forces, the Army Commander, the Inspector-General of Police and the Director of National Intelligence Service, who are paid Sh765,188 a month.
MPs, senators and deputy county governors, whose salaries are set at Sh621,250 per month (minus allowances), Navy and Air Force commanders (Sh647,461) and Speaker of County Assembly (Sh259,875 per month) will also queue behind the Cuban doctors in terms of pay.
“The doctors are being taken in under Job Group S and that is where the specialists are graded. So they are coming in as specialists,” Health Secretary Sicily Kariuki said, adding that there is no basis for paying the Sh2 billion that has been circulating in social media.
The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed last year with the doctors’ union provides that doctors in Job Group S be paid a minimum of Sh786,810 and a maximum of Sh882,180.
Civil servants in job group S earn between Sh127,000 and Sh189,000 per month excluding allowances but specialist doctors have a different pay scale signed in the 2013 CBA.
The Cuban doctors will get this in addition to furnished homes, air fares during their annual leave, paid utilities and transport from both the national and county governments.
The perks are articulated in the memorandum of understanding that the Council of Governors and the Ministry of Health signed for the 47 specialists and 53 family physicians who are expected to arrive at the end of the month.
The salary band chosen by the government puts the Cuban doctors just below the President’s Sh1,443,750, the Deputy President’s Sh1, 227,188 per month and the National Assembly Speaker’s Sh1,155,000.
Also placed slightly above the Cuban doctors are Cabinet Secretaries, the Secretary to the Cabinet, the Chief of Defence Forces, the Attorney-General and the governors.
Ms Kariuki, however, did not indicate whether any money would be paid to the Cuban government.
“I did not negotiate with only one doctor, I negotiated with the government of Cuba so my relationship is with their government. Had we recruited them individually, then I would have lost focus because this is within our bilateral agreement framework,” she said.
Cuba’s most valuable export is its own healthcare professionals with the socialist regime allowing the government to collect a portion of the incomes earned abroad. Thousands of Cuban doctors work abroad under contracts with the Cuban authorities.
Local doctors have, however, opposed the importation of Cuban doctors with the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) insisting the pay is not fair to them.
“Our specialists according to the CBA should be in Job Group S and T but they are in M, N or P. Quite discriminative,” said the KMPDU secretary-general Ouma Oluga.
Dr Oluga further argues that the fact that the Cuban doctors will work for 40 hours a week while Kenyan specialists work 55 to 96 hours a week and still earn only a fraction of the expats’ salary is unfair.
In a previous interview Dr Oluga said the hiring of the Cubans is unethical because Kenya has enough doctors locally.
“The same government is saying they don’t have money to absorb 171 specialists trained by taxpayers’ money for six years and then turn around and spend even more to bring in doctors from outside,” said Dr Oluga.
However, Ms Kariuki said that the importation of doctors was purely out of need and is meant to support counties that are suffering a severe lack of specialists.
She said hundreds of doctors in far-flung hospitals lack specialised skills, forcing patients to bear heavy cost of travel to the capital Nairobi or abroad for treatment.
“Fifty per cent of specialists are here and they would never go to Turkana or Marsabit. Even the ones who are here work for only a few hours,” she said.
A breakdown of medical specialists by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board shows that there are 2,591 Kenyan specialists, with Nairobi, Mombasa, Kiambu and Uasin Gishu accounting for the biggest chunk.
Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit and Vihiga have no specialists.
Kenya will import 47 specialists and 53 family physicians for distribution across the country, pushing the total number of foreign doctors to 1,197.
Currently, American doctors top the list of foreign medics practising in Kenya with 358 doctors. Indians are second with 147 doctors and Germans third with 65.
Three radiologists will be distributed to Siaya, Nandi and Wajir. Nephrologists will be distributed to Taita-Taveta, Migori, Busia, Nyeri and Embu while five orthopedic surgeons will be deployed to Lamu, Garissa, West Pokot, Nyandarua and Homa Bay.
One gastroenterologist and a neurologist will be sent to Mombasa, a dermatologist to Machakos, five general surgeons to Isiolo, Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera and Tana River, and nine critical care physicians to Kwale, Baringo, Kiambu, Nairobi and Makueni.
The other 53 family physicians will be distributed among the 47 counties, with Samburu, Kirinyaga, Laikipia and Kitui counties offered an extra doctor.