500 doctors to Kenya: How TZ starves in the middle of plenty

It was ironic to hear in the local media that our beloved country, Tanzania, is going to generously offer a helping hand to its neighbor, Kenya, by offering at least 500 medical doctors.

As a nation it’s time we should sit together and meditate on the health care situation in the country.

The World Health Organisation’s recommendation for doctor to patient ratio is1:1,000. At the time Tanzania stands at 1:25,000. Kenya is at 1:17,000.

Kenyan doctors recently went on an100 day strike with one of their demands being that that their government should employ more doctors, at least 1,000 new doctors should be employed into the puplic service each year.

On the other end, the cry from Tanzanian doctors for the government to employ more doctors to meet the growing demand and the increasing population has been going on for decades.

This led to the government putting more effort in ensuring we have many medical universities in the country. Today we are producing more that 1,000 doctors from our universities annually.

Read: Tanzania trains more doctors than it can employ-study

But something strange happened: suddenly the government said it’s wage bill could not accommodate all the new Medical doctors coming out of almost a dozen universities in the country.

We have now about 2,000 graduate doctors on the streets. Another 1,000 will soon be on the streets, jobless. But our facilities are all crying for doctors.

The situation is pathetic in our facilities, with a big shortage of doctors. The question is loud and clear: is our government serious about health care development in the country?

We have shortage of medicines and equipment.We have shortage of staff in public health facilities. But we are literally starving in the middle of plenty.
Kenya has a much more advanced medical services network compared to Tanzania, with a better Doctor to patient ratio of 1:17,000 (Tanzania is at 1:25,000).

We have a saying in our home village about the generosity of a candle: a candle burns to nothing so as to give us light. Sacrificing all.

It’s time to sit down as a nation and think. Time to recon. And, I take it as a challenge for the private health sector to create employment for the medical profession in Tanzania.

Time to come up with innovative models. But it will only work if the government and the National Health Insurance Fund(NHIF) will be willing to work with the private sector on such initiatives.

And by removing oppressive regulations that hinder private health sectors growth. One such regulation is NHIF refusing to register new private facilities till after three years of operation.

Yet, this happens when the government is promoting universal health coverage.

Dr Ogillo is the CEO of the Association of Private Health Facilities of Tanzania(APHTA)

MEDICOPRESS is a Non-Governmental Organization that promotes Medical Journalism, Professional Development and Public Health Education. It’s a network of medical scientists and journalists who believe in the dissemination of accurate medical/ health inform information in the process of imparting positive changes in the community.


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