CoG move stinks to high heaven

doctors strike

Kenya Medical Pharmacists and Dentist Union Chairman Dr Chibanzi Mwachonda addresses the press after meeting with some 300 doctors from Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale at the Kenya Medical Association offices on January 8, 2021.  

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • A government worth its salt would move the earth to ensure the physical health of the nation is given a priority in order to get people back to work quicker to spur economic growth.
  • A global pandemic is not the time for spin or click baits on tweeter.

I do wonder sometimes whose interests the Council of Governors represents. They are on record with their latest ‘tone-deaf’ press conference denouncing the agreement entered between striking doctors and the national government.

The agreement was crucial at averting crises in the health sector during the ongoing pandemic. I am not sure what exactly they aim to achieve by making silly excuses to disagree with the national government. A pandemic is not the time for egos. I see no other reason but self-aggrandisement here.

Calling a press conference to address an issue that could easily be cleared up by a quick phone call to the Health Minister and even the President smirks of poor judgment.

Irresponsible public utterances cause citizens unnecessary anxiety, as if they need any more than the pandemic is causing them. One thing governors fail to do – repeatedly – is to read the public mood before making unsettling statements or build unjustified buildings amidst economic downturns.

Kenya, like many other countries, is going through unprecedented time. The economy has pretty much halted. The challenges facing the health sector during this pandemic have immensely contributed to the economic decline.

A government worth its salt would move the earth to ensure the physical health of the nation is given a priority in order to get people back to work quicker to spur economic growth.

A global pandemic is not the time for spin or click baits on tweeter. Every word and action from the government, (including the governors), must be hopeful. It was better to have a Gentleman’s agreement with doctors than none. Credit must go to the central government for stepping in good time to avert medical crises. Governors should have supported such a move, but egotism got in the way it seems!

Executive order

The poor state of many county hospitals has been laid bare by Covid-19. Hospitals are chasing their tails now to stock up on ventilators and other crucial items to counter the effects of coronavirus.

These are things that should have been part of everyday hospital operations. It was not surprising that doctors had to go on strike at such a crucial time to secure their own safety; something that is not taken seriously by the governors.

Both the doctors and the governors form the first line of defence in medical emergencies and need to work in unity to ensure everyone associated with hospitals is kept safe. However, it is baffling that some governors have chosen to fire the very medical staff crucial at fighting the current pandemic than engaging them instead to resolve issues at hand.

I bet if we had public and State officials expected to use public hospitals, we would have had better reactions. Governors and senior officials care less, because they have superb facilities set up at ‘speed of light’ for them in most of the major private hospitals to treat their ‘posh’ Covid-19, since they can no longer fly abroad for treatment!

UN Covid-19 centre at Nairobi Hospital should have been set up within Mbagathi Hospital for Kibera slum residents. This is in order to boost UN’s Universal Health Care program and support Kenya’s under-funded public hospitals, but it was not to be. Ironically, the rich ‘deserve’ to live longer than the rest, I guess. Which is next to impossible with guaranteed death for all!

Governors have had the privilege of being treated for Covid-19 and dying at private hospitals. Why should they care what happens in public hospitals when they have best care elsewhere? I have asked before and I repeat: how do we expect officials who are divorced from public hospitals expected to have their heart in improving healthcare for the poor?

The challenge to President Uhuru is to go ahead and issue an Executive order to force officials who are paid by the taxpayers to use public hospitals. If he is indeed serious about Basic Universal Healthcare, he must start by demanding his officials instil confidence in the public hospitals by being the first in line to use the services offered there. Governors are not walking in the shoes of those they represent, hence why they gaffe at any given opportunity by making insensitive comments about the poor.

The coming months and years demand for concerted efforts to secure both the physical health of the citizens and the health of the economy. The contradictory stand points between the Governors and the central government proves they are not working in synchronicity towards a common goal; that is to rebuild our coronavirus shattered socio-economic pillars.

Unnecessary panic

This is not the time for self-aggrandisement but a time to give hope to the nation. That requires the government measuring carefully on how it communicates and behaves, so that it does not cause unnecessary panic and anxiety. We need every hand on deck to help our health sector manage the pandemic and rebuild it for future challenges. Rebelling against necessary policies, fire medical personnel or undermine the health sector has a time and place but a pandemic period is not it!

It is not the first time that doctors and nurses have gone on strike. The strikes by medical professionals have caused patients unimaginable suffering over the years. Patients, especially with long-term conditions and those requiring emergency care have died as doctors and nurses went on strike. The government should have had enough experience by now to avert strikes in the health sector by improving working conditions to ensure doctors and nurses striking became a thing of the past.

National and county governments, doctors and nurses all have a legal duty to save lives. It is time to hold individuals and national and county governments responsible for deaths and negligence that occur as a result of avoidable strikes. We cannot keep losing lives due to failures of those with legal responsibilities to do the right thing. Hospitals deal with bleeding, breathing human lives, not robots! @kdiguyo


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