What you need to know:
Career growth is the dream of every medical doctor especially after investing minimum six long years of intense university training and a mandatory one-year internship in a hospital. The system, however, is unsupportive in this endeavour.
Across the globe, humanity is being tormented by an unprecedented pandemic.
This is the second year where institutions and governments are united in fighting a socio economic crisis sparked by a virus, SARS-CoV-2, which has exposed longstanding vulnerabilities of health care systems in the world.
The World Health Organization first declared Covid-19 a world health emergency in January last year.
Barely two months later, the organization declared the viral outbreak a pandemic, the utmost level of health emergency, prompting concerted efforts to contain its spread.
Since then, several Covid-19 variants keep crossing borders, fomenting an international public health and economic crisis that is wracking the global economy far beyond any catastrophe on record.
At the moment, over 142 million people in the world have been infected by Coronavirus and sadly, three million lives, and still counting, have been lost.
An aspect that remains insufficiently tackled the second year into the pandemic is how the vicious health emergency has laid bare the plight of medical doctors here in Kenya.
As Covid-19 struck Kenya over a year ago, the country’s devolved healthcare system was already buckling under enormous challenges, from unending underfunding, poor staffing, to lack of basic infrastructure particularly in government hospitals that now have to lead the fight against Covid-19.
With the sudden thrust onto the frontline of fighting a global pandemic, medical doctors were put under extreme risk of bad outcomes, from contracting diseases such as novel Covid-19, HIV, and tuberculosis to at worst, losing their lives since they do not have a reliable medical cover if they get ill.
By December 2020, Kenya had lost about 15 medical doctors largely due to exposure to Covid-19, a grim reality attributable to the dangerous and often unjust working conditions across government hospitals.
That Kenya’s healthcare system is awash with adversities is not news. The raging Coronavirus pandemic continues to amplify the inherent vulnerabilities that put at risk the careers and lives of the few medical doctors in Kenya.
From going to treat Covid-19 patients without adequate protection gear, lacking a reliable medical insurance scheme when they fall sick, to working for months in poor work settings without a salary, the list of long-running inadequacies is long.
Every so often, members of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacist’s and Dentists Union (KMPDU) have been the roads, protesting over a range of pain points within the system especially the utter disregard to collective bargaining agreements between the union and the government.
Across the country, medical doctors plight doesn’t end there. The system has been faced with systemic infrastructure and capacity challenges over the years, a scenario that has been made worse by the pandemic.
The current system lacks clear career development paths for doctors practicing in both public and private hospitals.
Career growth and advancement is the dream of every medical doctor especially after investing minimum six long years of intense university training and a mandatory one-year internship in a hospital. The system, however, is unsupportive in this endeavour.
Therefore, lack of proper structures for career progression in the counties kills the spirit of young doctors, who are ready and willing to specialise in certain areas of their medical practice.
With proper training, advancement in studies and specialisation, medical doctors also expect to earn timely promotions, besides continuous improvement of their work environments in both public and private hospitals.
By setting up call rooms and doctors lounges, for instance, the country could see a marked improvement of the doctors’ morale and therefore output.
Dr. Thuranira Kaugiria is the Secretary General KMPDU, Nairobi