THINGS FALL APART! President, doctors fail to reach deal
The doctors’ strike is set to continue after the medics and President Uhuru Kenyatta failed to reached deal after a lengthy meeting at State House, Mombasa Wednesday, January 4 afternoon.
The meeting followed after the Head of State summoned the doctors’ union officials in a bid to find a solution to the strike that entered its 34th day Wednesday.
The doctors, led by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Secretary General, Dr Ouma Oluga, failed to reach a deal with the President who had expressed optimism in his New Year’s address that a solution would be found soon.
On December 27, 2016, details emerged that the government was eyeing foreign doctors, a move that angered the striking doctors more.
Citizen TV learnt that talks between Kenya and the Cuban and Indian governments for secondment of expatriate doctors to relieve paralysis occasioned by their striking Kenyan counterparts had kicked off.
One of the most contested areas has been the implementation of the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) entered between the medics and the government.
The CBA awarded the doctors’ a 300% pay rise and would see improved working conditions for the medics as well as recruitment of more doctors to reduce the current doctor to patient ratio that stands at 1:16,000.
Despite the Employment and Labour Relations Court declaring the strike illegal, the doctors remained adamant saying they would only return to work on condition that the 2013 CBA was implemented in full.
On December 20, 2016, the Labour Court ruled that KMPDU officials were in contempt of court for failing to call off the doctors’ strike as ordered.
The court had on December 1 ordered the union to hold off the industrial action for 30 days to allow for negotiations, but doctors proceeded to stage picket on December 5.
Labour Court Judge, Hellen Wasilwa, ruled that the officials are guilty of blatantly disobeying court orders, and therefore should punished.
The confrontation between the doctors and the government is set to intensify after the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) withdrew its members from the Kenyatta National Hospital private wing and threatened to extend this withdrawal to other private hospitals across the country.
On December 19, KMPDU Secretary General, Dr Ouma Oluga, said that the doctors’ union would withdraw their services from across all private hospitals.
On December 17, talks between the doctors’ and the government failed with Dr Oluga accusing the government of being non-committal despite acknowledging the existence and validity of the 2013 CBA.
“It is important for all Kenyans to understand that doctors want the document agreed upon and procedurally signed on 27th June 2013 implemented and not merely sinister pay offers without the CBA framework as was agreed,” read Dr Oluga’s statement in part.
He said that the doctors would continue with their strike.
“It is very unfortunate that 13 days into a national doctors’ strike and with a very clear proposal on CBA implementation from KMPDU, there is little commitment from the Government to help both doctors and members of the public who have remained victims of a dysfunctional health system.”
Speaking in Bomet on December 9, President Uhuru Kenyatta called on the doctors to have a spirit of understanding and look after the lives of their patients as the dispute is resolved.
“I am very hopeful that by the end of the day we should have an agreement. We need to work together because we do not want Kenyans to suffer,” said the President when he addressed doctors at the Kericho County Hospital.
The President said that he was optimistic a solution will be reached that recognizes the important role doctors and nurses play.
Early December, the government was forced to deployed the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) doctors to attend to emergency cases at the country’s largest referral hospital – Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) after the medics remained adamant that they would not return to work.
Prior to this and in a desperate attempt to save lives, Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) students, had been called in to assist in several hospitals across the country.
Late December, the Pharmaceuticals Society of Kenya (PSK) threatened to stop the supply of drugs to both private and public health facilities from January 3, 2017, if the government does not resolve the ongoing doctors’ strike.
PSK also cautioned the government against threatening doctors, saying more patients are dying each day with the government giving a deaf ear to the plight of the health practitioners.
The pharmacists said it was of no use for the government to buy expensive health machines yet there are no doctors to operate them, adding that clinical officers had assumed the role of doctors and conducting botched surgeries on patients leading to their deaths.