The Swahili say, “hayawi hayawi hua!” to mean what you thought might never happen will eventually happen. That has been the case with Kenya and its much anticipated Cuban doctors. The Kenyan doctor family led by their secretary general, Dr. Ouma Oluga have been up and about trying to fight the system to prevent the importation of the Cubans. They even moved to court through one of the most vocal of doctors in the country Dr. Samson Misango. But the case was dismissed and finally, the highly trained, well experienced, Spanish speaking doctors have been dispatched to their respective counties of work.http://thedoctor.co.ke/uproar-over-cuban-doctor-importation/
Each county has received at least two of these doctors and the great county of Kisumu is no exception. Our two Cuban doctors reported for duty very early; on the morning of Monday the 2nd of July 2018. They were driven into Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital by a county vehicle and they immediately reported to their respective places of work.
Dr. Maikel, the young neurosurgeon made his way straight to theatre. Where Natalla and Matilda welcomed him with open arms. He must be a perfect replacement for the recently retired Dr. Raburu who for a long time was in charge of some of the head surgeries. He is definitely going to be a great asset to the hospital. For, those eager to learn, I’m sure there is a lot to be learnt from Dr. Maikel.
Dr. Aldana on the other hand, made his way to ICU. Standing at about 5’5, the well-built 54-year-old joined Dr. Sadia and Dr. Deya in the newly expanded JOOTRH ICU wing.
theDoctor, not having recruited any Spanish speaking reports yet, was definitely going to have a hard time bringing you this exclusive interview with a Cuban doctor. However, luckily, for us, Dr. Jose Manuel Aldana speaks some English though with a heavy Spanish accent.
I met Dr. Aldara at his work place, having been there for no less than one week. I found him seated opposite Dr. Deya discussing one of the three ICU patients in the ward that day. It hasn’t been very busy for him yet.
Dr. Sadia described Dr. Aldana as a very competent and committed man. He exclaimed at the fact that he had been a professor. Teaching medicine back in Cuba. They were definitely having a great time and learning a lot from the experienced doctor.
theDoctor had a chance to have a chat with this great doctor and prepared this one on one chat just to get a clear insight on the matter of Cuban doctors and finally put an end to the debate and focus in the patients well-being.
This is how it went down.
theDoctor: Welcome to kenya!
Dr. Aldana: thank you very much, asante sana. Karibu Kenya. (laughing)
theDoctor: how has it been? How do you find Kenya?
Dr. Aldana: Kenya is a wonderful country. I have been to the parks I loved seeing all the Animals. We went to Nairobi National park. And we had a great time. But there was too much traffic, I was stuck in traffic for almost 4 hours.
theDoctor: how has it been so far for you in the hospital?
Dr. Aldana: Good. It’s been good so far I’ve not had any problems, the people here are very welcoming. I enjoy working with Dr. Deya and Dr. Sadia and I hope they learn from me.
theDoctor: there has been a lot of controversy in the country over the issue of Cuban doctors coming into the country. What do you think about that?
Dr. Aldana: that is a political issue. Cuban doctors work everywhere in the world. In Africa we have Cuban doctors offering medical services in many places. Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Nigeria South Afirca, Tanzania, Uganda. So for the doctors we don’t have any problems working anywhere, the agreement was between our Government and the Kenyan Government.
Even the world health organization says that Cuban doctors are the best. Because even when Ebola strikes, for example, when it did in Siera Leon And Liberia, only Cuban doctors are always ready to go there.
theDoctor: Have you worked in any other country?
Dr. Aldana: yes, I worked in another British colony, just like Kenya, where I learnt to speak some English. The Dominic Island. I worked there from 2011 to 2015. There are close to 40,000 Cuban doctors working all over the world.
theDoctor: so why did you decide to come to Kenya
Dr. Aldana: Kenya is a good country. There is good culture and it’s a natural country with many parks. I wanted to see the migration of animals across the river.
theDoctor: ooh great, so where are you staying in Kisumu
Dr. Aldana: I have been given a house is Milimani area. It’s well furnished with everything. It’s quite nice.
EDUCATION AND CAREER
theDoctor: how was med school for you in Cuba?
Dr. Aldana: it was good. You know the good thing about Cuba is that everything is free. Right from primary school, secondary school to medical school. Even for specialization its free totally.
theDoctor: aah! that’s good.
Dr. Aldana: Yes, Cuba is a communist country. You see that’s why we have very many doctors in different specializations.
theDoctor: what about for the patients.
Dr. Aldana: That too is free. In all public hospitals all treatment is free for everyone.
theDoctor: So what year did you graduate med school?
Dr. Aldana: 1988. I finished my undergraduate in 1988. Then went direct for my specialization in internal medicine and I finished that in 1992. Then I subspecialized in critical care and I finished that in 1999
theDoctor: is that the path for every doctor in Cuba?
Dr. Aldana: Yes, and no
theDoctor: what do you mean by that?
Dr. Aldana: it depends on how well you pass in Medical school. For those who pass highly like I did, we go direct for specialization. However, for the others, who are now the majority, you have to go first for training in Family medicine for 3 years. Then after that you can specialize in the area you want.
theDoctor: So after you specialized in ICU where did you work?
Dr. Aldana: I have worked for 30 years now. I have worked in internal medicine for all those 30 years now. And in ICU for 19 years. I worked in my home town in ICU for 11 years from 2000 to 2011 before I went to Dominic Island, then back to Cuba in my town in 2015 then now I have come to Kenya.
theDoctor: so why internal medicine?
Dr. Aldana: Mainly because I like to study. I study a lot. But also because Surgery is not my favorite, it disgusts me somehow.
theDoctor: Do you prefer to work outside your country?
Dr. Aldara: Yes, I do it’s always good to get new experiences
theDoctor: so how does Kenya compare to Cuba in terms of health?
Dr. Aldana: Cuba is better with everything. Everything. There are more specialized doctors, there’s better infrastructure,
theDoctor: Do you think this Cuban doctor program will help us?
Dr. Aldana: I’m not sure about that. But personally I’m ready to give my experience and expertise to the doctors here. And I hope to learn from them too. I also want to improve my English.
Then there are 50 Kenyan doctors who have gone to train in different specialties in Cuba and I think that will be helpful. We get to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
theDoctor: So how are you guys getting paid? Do you receive 800, 000 Kenya shillings?
Dr. Aldana: how much is that?
theDoctor: That’s around 8000 USD
Dr. Aldana: (laughing) No. No way. I get paid only 1000 USD per month. The rest is just politics and what they say on the news.
theDoctor: so did you come with your family?
Dr. Aldana: No. in fact I already miss my wife (laughing)
theDoctor: tell me about her
Dr. Aldana: She’s my Second wife. I divorced my first wife sometimes back. She is a nurse.
theDoctor: Does she work in Cuba or outside
Dr. Aldana: No, she is in Cuba.
theDoctor: Do you have any children?
Dr. Aldana: Yes, I have 2 boys and a girl. My second born son is also a doctor; he wants to specialize in surgery. He just finished undergraduate last year. My first born is an engineer and my daughter is only 14.
theDoctor: Ok Thank you I wish you all the best. Enjoy your stay in Kenya and feel at home.
Dr. Aldana: Thank you
My chat with Dr. Aldana of Cuba, despite the straining due to language barrier was one of the most intriguing. I found a doctor, ready to teach and treating everyone as equals. He even expressed his love for the beautiful game and with passion declared his support for Uruguay to win the Russia world cup. Too bad for him even his second favorite, Brazil were knocked out.
theDoctor would like to officially welcome all Cuban doctors into the country and Dr. Aldana and Dr. Maikel into the great county of Kisumu. We wish them the best and hope that not only the doctors but also the government can learn from the Cubans for a long lasting solution to our health problems and challenges.
As dr. Ouma Oluga rightly puts it, what we need is the Cuban system and not he Cuban doctors. But for now they are here and the least we can do is learn as much as we can from them. And if all goes well, let’s hope that our government will listen to them more when they say they need better working conditions.
By Nyadimu Festo