Dodoma — As the government yesterday announced the immediate hiring of 258 doctors among those who were to be sent to Kenya, the key question of where the recruitment budget came from remains unanswered.
The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, said for sometime now the government has failed to employ medical doctors because of lack of funds and even with this recruitment it was President John Magufuli who knew where the funds would come from.
Addressing a press conference yesterday, Ms Mwalimu said after President Magufuli found out that there was a dillydallying on the Kenyan side over the hiring of doctors it had requested in March, he thought it was prudent for him to immediately absorb the medics internally.
She said, according to an agreement between the two countries, the doctors were supposed to travel to Kenya between April 6 and 10.
"The President demanded to know from me why the doctors were yet to travel to Kenya. After a brief discussion, he ultimately decided to employ them so as to fill in the gaps in the local public sector," she said.
Ms Mwalimu said the President's decision was aimed at curbing the shortage of doctors in public hospitals. "For a long time we have been struggling on how to get money to employ a reasonable number of doctors to curtail the shortage. Now, as long as it is the President making this decision, he knows where he would find the money," she said.
Three weeks ago, Employment and Labour Relations Court of Kenya issued a temporal stop order for the Nairobi government from employing foreign medics. Five Kenyan medics had sued to stop their government from hiring 500 Tanzanian doctors while there were hundreds of unemployed Kenyan medics.
According to Ms Mwalimu, as the court order was delivered already her ministry had received a total of 496 applications of medical doctors prepared to go and work in Kenya.
"After conducting our evaluations, the 258 doctors had qualified to go to Kenya," she added.
Minister Mwalimu said her ministry will soon publicise the names of the 258 doctors and the working station to which they have been posted in the ministry's website.
According to her, the government was standby to provide Kenya with the 500 medics that they were looking for since there were still many unemployed doctors in Tanzania.
"What the President wants is assurance that there is no hindrance in the whole process. When that is assured then we will process another round of call for doctors who have never been employed in the formal sector and provide our neighbours with the doctors they would ask for," she said.
Last month, a delegation sent by President Uhuru Kenyatta, led by Cabinet Secretary for Health, Dr Cleopa Mailu, called on President Magufuli at the Magogoni State House in Dar es Salaam and presented him with the request of employing 500 Tanzanian doctors.
Reacting, the president of the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT), Dr Obadia Nyongole, congratulated President John Magufuli for the decision, urging for more job opportunities to created to address the shortage of doctors in the country.
"I congratulate and thank the President for this bold step. It is very encouraging to see that trained doctors can find a job in their own country," said Dr Nyongole. Dr Nyongole called upon 258 doctors, who would secure employment, to ensure they follow the tailored procedures, asking the Ministry of Health to issue job permits to doctors, according to the country's shortage of medics.
"As they came forward voluntarily and asked for a chance of going to Kenya to provide health services, we ask those doctors who would be chosen to be ready to work at their work stations and provide services to Tanzanians," he said.
(Additional reporting by Harieth Makweta)