Cuban doctors are free to practice in Kenya after the High Court on Tuesday dismissed suits opposing their hiring in county hospitals.
Justice Onesmus Makau ruled that five doctors who had challenged the hiring in two separate suits did not tender sufficient evidence to support their allegation that their counterparts were hired unlawfully and contrary to the principles of national governance.
The doctors had accused the government of lying to the world that the country has a shortage of medical specialists hence the need to hire from the Caribbean island nation.
They argued that the Sh1 billion set aside for hiring 100 Cuban doctors could be used to employ local physicians instead.
“Statistics exhibit enough proof that they are urgently needed upcountry where even younger Kenyan doctors do not prefer to work,” said Justice Makau.
Kenya’s doctor-to-patient ratio is one to 16,000, according to official data, far below the World Health Organisation's recommendation of one to 1,000.
The government says doctors in far-flung hospitals lack specialised skills, forcing patients to travel to the capital Nairobi or abroad for treatment.
The judge faulted the doctors, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) and the Kenya Medical Association for failing to specify the number of unemployed specialised doctors.
Justice Makau noted that court documents mentioned 171 specialised doctors out of the 1,683 unemployed, but failed to indicate their names or area of specialty.
He faulted the government for failure to involve public participation when hiring the foreign doctors as well as not inviting the doctors' union to give views before hiring their Cuban counterparts.
President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed on the deal last year and the plan was accelerated after his visit to Cuba in March.
The Cuban doctors arrived in the country two weeks ago and are spending a month at the Government School of Science before being sent to counties.
They include three radiologists, five nephrologists, orthopedic surgeons, plastic surgeons and neurologists.