Why doctors should be well remunerated
As I pen down this paper, I understand that it will receive mixed reactions depending on an individual’s view of the medical profession. Some will say that I am biased because I belong to the profession but let us be honest, If doctors don’t speak for themselves, who will? All of us are aware that 2017 is an election year in Kenya. As such, there is bound to be a lot of industrial action by government employees who feel they have not been well reimbursed for the services they offer. One such action has been the protracted strike by doctors, currently in its 41st day. The lecturers have also threatened to follow suit. It is true that those who have borne the brunt of the doctors’ strike in Kenya are the poor patients who are in desperate need of the services. However, another group that has suffered is the medical students, for whom no learning is going on. As a medical student, I request you to join me in brainstorming on why doctors should be well remunerated.
Healthcare is not cheap, especially in a country where most payments are out of pocket. That notwithstanding, everyone acknowledges that doctors provide valuable services. Think of the number of surgeries and appointments that have been canceled due to the industrial action. Women must travel for long distances to access simple maternity services. I am also worried about that patient with diabetes who has developed DKA and has no money to access services in private hospitals. When you consider that these patients would have easily accessed these services in public hospitals, don’t you agree that doctors should be well remunerated?
Among doctors, there is what has come to be popularly known as the lost decade. Most doctors receive their training between age 20 and 30. This is a decade where anyone training to be a doctor does not enjoy good health, their quality of life is low, and they must strike a balance between a demanding career and family responsibilities. Associations with friends and spouses also become strained. For a junior doctor, work comes first and everything else later. Therefore, they deserve to be compensated for the opportunities missed in the ‘lost decade’.
Undergraduate medical training in Kenya takes six years. Medical students have to study for 18 semesters while their counterparts in other undergraduate programs only do eight semesters. Lengthy training translates into higher costs of acquiring educates. It is, therefore, not logical that doctors remuneration should be similar to that of other public servants. A good pay structure must consider the length, as well the cost of training of doctors before determining their pay.
One of the principles of economics is that the supply influences demand, and this, in turn, influences the prices of services. The World Health Organization’s recommendation for a doctor: patient ratio is 1:1000. However, in Kenya, the ratio stands at 1:17000. This points to a great deficiency of doctors. Several countries in the World, especially In Africa also suffer a great deficit. As a result, doctors are always moving in the search for greener pastures. The result has been an alarming brain drain that has threatened the state of healthcare delivery. I recently read a heart-wrenching story alleging that a whole county has just 12 doctors. The only way to attract doctors in remote areas is to increase their pay and improve their working conditions.
The current stalemate in Kenya’s healthcare system is the result of a government that does not recognize the value of services offered by doctors and one that cares not about the plight of the citizens. Just like any other citizens, doctors deserve to live a good life. In the end, it must be remembered that it is not the compensation of doctors that consumes the largest portion of the healthcare budget but equipment that currently lies idle in hospitals and the mega corruption associated with the procurement of this equipment.
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