Nakuru doctors issue 30-day strike notice over strain amid pandemic

Health workers are pictured inside the Covid-19 isolation centre at Bondeni Sub-county Hospital in Nakuru town on August 1, 2020.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Secretary-General Davji Atellah said the union was concerned about the health workers’ welfare as they had been neglected for so long, with the county doing little to help them especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Dr Atella further claimed more than 100 doctors were yet to be promoted and had remained in their job groups for too long despite a 2016 scheme of service which allowed promotions up to the T level.
  • County Health executive Kariuki Gichuki dismissed the KMPDU’s claims, saying the region had 205 doctors and that 185 were on permanent employment terms.

The South Rift branch of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) has issued a 30-day strike notice for health workers in Nakuru County.

Secretary-General Davji Atellah said the union was concerned about the health workers’ welfare as they had been neglected for so long, with the county doing little to help them especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Atellah accused Nakuru of failing to employ enough medics, hence a shortage in public hospitals, which he said were strained. He added that matters were worsened when some of the medics got infected with the coronavirus.

“For the last two years, the county has only employed 24 doctors and to date, at least 15 have left the service due to frustrations by the county,” he said.

He added that the employment was on contract terms and that those in this category were facing discrimination from their colleagues on permanent terms, while working under poor conditions.

“These doctors’ employment terms don’t include medical cover and they feel badly exposed, especially with the pandemic. In case they fall sick, they will have to pay from their own pockets, which is very dangerous.”

Promotions

Dr Atella further claimed more than 100 doctors were yet to be promoted and had remained in their job groups for too long despite a 2016 scheme of service which allowed promotions up to the T level.

“Their welfare is not being catered for and our efforts to [negotiate] with the previous and current county governments have borne no fruits,” he said, regretting that the county had not kept any of its promises, hence lack of motivation among the health workers.

In the last two years, KMPDU further claimed, the county has victimised health workers by issuing show cause letters and stopping them from working without warnings.

“KMPDU has held several meetings with the county to settle the issue of the cost-benefit analysis, without success.”

The union threatened to sue Nakuru over these issues before next Friday.

County’s response

Reached for comment, County Health executive Kariuki Gichuki dismissed the KMPDU’s claims, saying the region had 205 doctors and that 185 were on permanent employment terms.

Dr Gachuki said only 20 doctors were working on contract since they were recently employed and that four of them were sent to the county by the national government.

“When we employ doctors on contract, we are only following the national government’s procedure,” he said.

On promotions, he said 15 doctors were promoted two months ago and 15 would be elevated from job group N to P as they submitted their documents to the County Public Service Board.

He said at least 69 doctors were not working since they were pursuing post-graduate degrees, a factor that has contributed to the reduced number of health workers in the county.

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