19 April 2017

East Africa: Magufuli Stops Kenya Plan to Hire Tanzanian Doctors

Photo: Tonny Omondi/Daily Nation
Doctors from private hospitals protest in Kisumu on February 14, 2017, to demand the release of their seven colleagues from jail.

President John Magufuli on Wednesday scuttled Kenya's attempts to hire doctors from Tanzania after he ordered his administration to employ them instead.

The order to absorb 258 doctors he had allowed to come and work in Kenya was prompted by the legal battles in Kenya which have blocked their employment.

The announcement came from the Twitter handle of Ummy Mwalimu, Tanzania's Health minister.

The minister later posted a statement in Kiswahili giving a chronology of events and indicated that there may be disappointment among the Tanzanian doctors that the plan did not succeed even after they underwent a rigorous selection process.


"On March 18, 2017, a delegation from Kenya led by the minister for Health, Dr Cleopa Mailu, arrived in Tanzania and met President John Pombe Magufuli, the President of the Republic of Tanzania with the intention of hiring about 500 doctors from Tanzania," he said.

This was in the twilight days of the doctors' strike that began on December 5, 2016, and their absence from hospitals had created a health crisis.

In an attempt to deal with the shortage, the Health ministry sought the help of Tanzania to recruit 500 of its doctors.

On the day of Dr Mailu's visit, the Tanzanian statement said the local Health ministry had announced the Kenyan vacancies for Tanzanian doctors. The deadline for applications was March 27.

"We received 497 applications and 258 doctors met the threshold," the Tanzanian minister said.


The 258 met the relevant criteria including educational testimonials from secondary to medical school, internship, work experience and age (not more than 55). They also had to be registered by the medical board of Tanzania, and not employed by the government.

The agreement between Kenya and Tanzania was that the doctors would be allowed to travel to Kenya between April 6 and 10.

However, doubts arose as medical associations from both countries and health experts questioned the practicality of the decision, ultimately leading to a court case.

According to the World Health Organisation, none of the three East African countries meet the recommended doctor-patient ratio of one health worker to 600 patients, an equivalent of 167 per 100,000 patients.


Tanzania, the most populous of the three countries with 53 million people as at 2015 and the largest, has only three doctors per 100,000; Uganda has 12 for every 100,000 and Kenya has 20 doctors per 100,000 people.

In the ministry's defence, Dr Mailu told NTV in an interview: "There are associations and unions, but they do not run the government and each should stay within its mandate."

He added: "The government has a responsibility to its citizens, including providing employment."

Every year, Tanzania's eight medical schools produce about 1,000 doctors. Very few of them get jobs. The Tanzanian government said it was open to offering another 500 as long as Kenya starts negotiations afresh.

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