Friday, 14 September 2012

Doctors don’t owe government anything!

Let’s talk about cancer.  Let’s talk about how the only place in Kenya where you can find radiation treatment in a public hospital is at Kenyatta National Hospital. Let’s talk about the fact that should you be diagnosed with cancer, you’d have to wait 6 to 9 months before you can receive your first session of radiation treatment and also before you can receive surgery.  Let’s talk about the fact that there are no easily available or affordable drugs for cancer treatment. Let’s talk about how the combination of those factors plus your own poverty as an average citizen makes it most likely that you will die should you get cancer in Kenya and cannot attend private hospital.

There are only about 2500 doctors serving public facilities in Kenya, and the Medical Services Minister recently fired about 320 of them because they went on strike. In fact, the general tactics this ministry is using to deal with the doctors is to threaten, coerce and intimidate them. The idea, that a ministry that has such a massive shortfall of doctors can in turn threaten and fire them when these doctors demand better pay, better working conditions and more doctors to be hired just boggles the mind. How can you fire doctors when you don’t have enough doctors in the first place?

It’s a sad day in Kenya, when you can walk into a pub at 2pm on a weekday and find it filled with civil servants who are on strike. The doctor is on strike, and his heart and mind is still with his patients such that he is making calls to the hospital periodically. The teacher is on strike, and at the same time wondering how his students are doing with their revision work. The striking civil servants can’t even enjoy their drinks; they are just frustrated, oppressed, and frankly, depressed.

This government and its Ministry officials need to understand some very basic facts about Kenya. Firstly, it’s a sweet dream to have Vision 2030, but it’s utterly ludicrous to have such a vision when in 2012, you only have 16 doctors per every 100,000 patients.  In fact it’s an insult to one’s intellect that someone can even harp on and on about how they are reformers when they cannot even understand simply mathematics when it comes to the number of doctors and teachers needed in Kenya.

You know when a patient has prostate cancer; one of the first measures taken by the doctor in order to treat the disease is to excise the testes.  I think the Medical Services Ministry is suffering from cancer and its time its testes were excised. This is one ministry where mismanagement has led to such a massive brain drain that roughly about two thirds of Kenya’s medical practitioners are actually living and working either in private sector or abroad. There is this ridiculous illusion created by the media that doctors are rich people who run private clinics during the hours at which they are meant to be working in the public hospitals. The media forgets that those same doctors they caricature are struggling to provide medical care in a facility that has no gloves, no medical instruments, no resources, and insufficient or inadequate medicine, or in fact do not have the drugs needed in stock anyway.

Here we are, bartering the very health and lives of our people away over allowances, yet the demands made by KMPDU were extensive enough to at least improve health care across the board.  You know the doctors are simply repeating the very same guidelines that the World Health Organization stipulates are necessary for a developing nation’s health sector.  This country is supposed to allocate about 16% of its budget to healthcare in order to adequately meet the country’s needs, and instead of increasing budgetary allocations, this year’s budget actually decreased its allocation to healthcare. 

When a ministry deliberately creates crisis, the onus is not upon the doctors to deal with the crisis, and yet they are forced to do so on a daily basis.  It is at that moment that statements like, “Government does not owe doctors anything” are not only insulting they speak volumes of the irrational mindset that is caused by excised testes.

The teacher in the pub sits next to the doctor.  The conversation they are having rotates around the teacher being responsible for inspiring his students to become doctors, only for the doctor to become just as frustrated and overworked as the teachers.  For one brief, scary moment, I think that both are strongly considering becoming hawkers.

Doctors don’t owe government anything. They don’t owe government their peace of mind, they don’t owe government their education and they don’t owe government their financial freedom. Government owes doctors everything, because without these selfless and dedicated individuals, the Ministry of Medical Services would have completely and absolutely shut down. Its time these government officials grew a pair and faced the facts of their abysmal incompetence.

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