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Helping Kenya bridge doctor-patient gap

by Brian Yatich

A Chinese doctor brings hope to the under privileged Kenyans seeking advanced medical health care

By Boniface Otieno Kanyamwaya

As of today, Kenya’s health care sector is suffering. Shortage of physicians and moribund health facilities against an ever growing population with numerous health care needs pretty much summarises the sorry state of affairs. The on-going doctors’ strike has only made matters worse.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Kenya has just one doctor and only 12 nurses and midwives for every 10,000 people, which is way below the WHO’s recommended ratio of 1: 1000.

The Nairobi based Kenyatta National Hospital acts as the main referral and teaching centre for medical treatment, with other county hospitals taking referrals from their constituencies.

In rural areas, services are provided by health centres and dispensing clinics, though this often lacks facilities and trained staff.

Data from the Kenya Medical Association reveals that about 360 doctors graduate from the two major medicine schools in Kenya, but three quarters of them do not end up working for the government.

“They know that to get a licence, they have to finish one year internship programme. Some wait until they are posted to district hospitals before quitting while the brave ones leave as soon as they are through with the post-medical school training to join the private sector, or they go abroad,” says  former Kenya Medical Association Chairperson Dr Abdi Mohamed.

It is partly because of this reason that Prof. Lei Wang (the First China Post-Doctor Aid to Africa) is out to offer free medical aid to poor Kenyans as part of the growing Sino-Kenya cooperation.

Prof. Wang is in Kenya courtesy of a bilateral agreement between Kenya and the Government of China on medical cooperation. He is the Deputy Head of the Expert group on the Qifei project — a collaborative project between China’s Ministry of Science and Technology and Kenya’s Ministry of Health.

He says the Government of China has since donated four modular state of the art container clinics to the Kenyan ministry of health to boost response to killer diseases such as pneumonia, malaria,typhoid, among others.

These clinics Prof. Wang adds, have been able to deliver advanced health care services to disadvantaged communities in Kenya for free.

“Our aim is to ensure that all people have access to medical services regardless of their-economic status,” he says.

The mobile clinics, he points out,are assembled using modern Chinese technology and their design is sensitive to the local environment in Kenya.

These facilities, which cost US$ 100,000 each, are currently operating in Turkana, Mombasa and Nairobi.

“In this way, even the poor people will benefit from the Chinese overseas aid to Kenya, thereby reaffirming China’s commitment to helping African countries improve health care services against a backdrop of rising burden of infections and lifestyle diseases,” says Prof. Wang.

He furtherpoints out that to date they have set up about 20 medical campsoperations in various parts of the country, the latest one being in HurumaChildren’s Home last month,which targeted over 200 orphans who could not access quality medical services.

A wealth of medical experience

Prof. Wang comes from a family of doctors.  His father and grandfathers as well as his older brother are doctors in China.

“I was inspired to join the medical profession by watching my grandfather treating ailing patients. I saw my grandfather turn the sorrow of patients into joy, and this inspired me to study hard to become a doctor,” he says.

He then enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree in medicine in the year 2000 and come 2010, he had attained a doctorate in the same field.

Because he was an excellent student, he says he was able to complete studies in a shorter time than expected.

Prof Wang, who is also a professor at the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology besides being an Associate Chief Physician,adds that he was inspired to come to Africa by a movie about Africa, which he watchedat a tender age.

“I remember watching the ‘Out of Africa’ and I immediately fell in love with the continent, “he says.

His visit to Africa, he explains, came at a time when China required doctors to come to Africa as part of the Chinese overseas aid to Africa.“I was selected because I was the most suitable experienced candidate.”

Prof. Wang’s tour in Africa will end in October 2017.

“I hope that I will have inspired a generation of Chinese doctor to provide high quality health service to the people of Africa in order to enhance even further the Sino-Africa friendship,” he says.

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