Dr. Alex Manirakiza is a Pediatric Oncologist heading Children’s ward at Butaro Cancer referral hospital in Rural Burera district, Northern Province.
Dr. Manirakiza’s love for children goes beyond diagnosing and treating cancerous tumors in their bodies – his parental care puts smiles on the faces of ill children aged between 1-15 years, who lay on hospital beds as they receive treatment against cancer.
But only when you speak to Dr. Manirakiza in Kinyarwanda, you realize that his primary language is ‘Kirundi’. He is a Burundian.
Dr. Manirakiza is one single example of hundreds of other Burundian doctors working in different hospitals across Rwanda. Most of them came to integrate into Rwanda’s health sector after fleeing political instability in Burundi since April 2015.
In 2015, a large number of Burundi’s elite and professionals fled their country as a section of their military attempted to overthrow the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Most fleeing physicians have integrated into Rwanda’s health sector.
Jean Chrysostome Nyirinkwaya, an Obstetric-Gynaecologist and proprietor of La Croix du Sud – a private hospital in Kigali employs Burundian doctors that fled the crisis.
According to Dr. Nyirinkwaya, some of these Burundian doctors operated clinics and hospitals while in Burundi, but fled to Rwanda and have been accorded chance to continue practicing.
“We employ four Burundian doctors specialized in Anesthesia and Gynaecology,” Dr. Nyirinkwaya told KT Press.
Dr. Nyirinkwaya’s statement is shared by Dr. Diane Kaneza, a Burundian working at Kibagabaga hospital in the general medicine department. According to Dr. Kaneza, at least every hospital across the country has a Burundian doctor.
“They are all over the country. We presented our qualifications to Rwanda Medical and Dental Council and we were approved as qualified to offer services in Rwandan hospitals,” she told KT Press.
Established in 2003, Rwanda Medical and Dental Council is the authority responsible for regulation of medical and dental practice in the country. Currently, there are 1533 practicing doctors registered under the council, including Burundian doctors.
Dr. Kaneza offers medical expertise by treating patients at Kibagabaga hospital along other 2 Burundian colleagues. She says there are many others around the country.
Kaneza said that there are 12 Burundian doctors at Masaka hospital (Kigali), 12 in Nyagatare (Eastern Province) and 11 doctors in Kirehe (Eastern Province).
It is only Rwanda Medical and Dental Council with authority to accredit a Medical and dental practitioner to operate in the country. According to officials at the council, every medical and dental practitioner including foreigners are classified and graded based on internationally acceptable norms and standards.
Not easy task but worth it
According to officials at Rwanda Medical and Dental Council, the grading criteria based on internationally acceptable standards is conducted by a national task force composed of representatives from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Service and Labour, Rwanda Medical and Dental Council, Rwanda Medical Association, Public Services Commission, and all registered Professional Specialty Societies.
This team processes credentials of medical and dental practitioners in different categories to comply with public servants categorization and implementation of the new salary structure guidelines.
According to Rwanda Medical and Dental Council, to be a medical and dental practitioner in Rwanda, one needs to provide evidence of ‘Continuing Professional Development (CPD)’ credits (50 per year), current license to practice; a valid certificate of good status and a Medical Degree (Mmed, MD) from recognizable University. Absence or breach of any of these criteria, is an automatic disqualification for grading.
But Burundian doctors found this comfortable. “We were asked to submit several documents and those qualified were easily given a go ahead to look for jobs,” Dr. Kaneza told KT Press of her journey to get a job at Kibagabaga hospital.