Mombasa county government has sacked dozens of doctors, including KMPDU boss Chibanzi Mwachonda and senior specialists for refusing to return to work.
In a letter signed by county secretary Jeizan Faruk, Governor Hassan Joho’s administration dismissed 86 striking workers for boycotting duty.
"Following the correspondence shared between the Department of Health and the County Public Service Board on the doctors strike, the Board, pursuant to Section 59 (1) (c) of the County Governments Act number 17 of 2012, hereby conveys its decision via Special Board meeting held on January 5, 2021 that all the doctors who have failed, refused and/or neglected to return to work be dismissed from county services as provided for under Section 44 (4) (a), (c) and (e) of the Employment Act 2007 which constitute justifiable or lawful grounds for the dismissal as highlighted in the Act," the devolved unit said.
The notice was sent to the affected via e-mail.
The Joho administration further instructed the doctors to immediately hand over all properties belonging to the county government to their supervisors.
"Update us on the progress of the dissemination of the letters, handover and staff return for each of the facilities," said the county secretary. This was copied to the health executive, chief officer, Devolution and Public Service Administration.
However, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Coast branch secretary, Dr Abidan Mwachi, vowed to go to court.
"We have received the letters of dismissal but they are illegal, they are the ones who took us to court and cannot by-pass the court process. We are not scared. We will move to court to get an injunction," said Dr Mwachi.
This comes as the health sector in the county ground to a halt with doctors, nurses and clinical officers pleading with patients to seek treatment in Kwale, Kilifi and neighbouring devolved units.
Instead of resolving the health paralysis, the striking health staff, including 220 doctors and 800 nurses, say the Governor Hassan Joho-led county is threatening and intimidating them despite going on a legal strike since December 2.
Wards in major hospitals are empty with services such as surgery, maternity, in-patient and out-patient suspended as doctors, nurses, laboratory technologists, clinical officers and radiographers boycott duties.
The strike is hampering the fight against the coronavirus.
The health staff are on strike over perennial salary delays, non-remittance of statutory deductions and insurance premiums and third party deductions.
KMPDU, Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun), Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO), Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO) and Kenya Health Professionals Society (KHPS) said they will not be intimidated back to work unless their demands are met.
"Mombasa administration has become cruel to its hospital workers and, by extension, the residents by denying them access to health. The county deducts funds from our salaries with the intention of paying banks as reimbursements for loans, insurance and policies but does not take the money there. In effect our members end up without salaries because when they are paid their monies, they are taken up by the accumulated arrears," KMPDU Coast branch secretary Dr Mwachi said.
Dr Mwachi said the medics cannot get any loans from financial institutions after the majority were blacklisted on the Credit Reference Bureau due to non-compliance.
"We have been blacklisted by financial institutions, we have gotten letters from Kenya Revenue Authority. But the county is now sending dismissal letters, sacking and eviction notices from government houses. All the 220 doctors across the county have received the threats," added the KMPDU official.
Dr Mwachi said they have tried to reach out to the county government but their return to work formula was ignored. They are yet to receive their December salaries, whereas nurses were last paid in November.
The medic said some 80 doctors were affected by the virus with some being hit twice.
"We will go back to work once they implement our return to work formula as signed on October 2 last year. It covers job progression for doctors, payment in total for all statutory deductions and payment of interest accrued," added the KMPDU official.
Dr Mwachi urged Mombasa residents to strictly adhere to the health protocols to protect themselves from the virus that is ravaging the county amidst a strike.
"Keep social distance, wash your hands and wear your face masks, the coronavirus situation is bad … it is terrible and we empathise. We have advised our patients to seek services in Kilifi district or Mariakani which is 40 minutes away, my members can even go and volunteer there for free," the medic said.
Knun Mombasa branch secretary Peter Maroko demanded risk allowance and group life insurance before they resume duties.
Lab technologist Moses Maingi urged the government to treat the workers with respect.