Timely salaries avert North Rift doctors’ strike

Dr Darwin Ambuka, KMPDU chairman and other officials on doctors strike

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) North Rift Secretary General Dr. Kamonzi Mulei second (left), accompanied by chairman Dr. Darwin Ambuka third (left) and other doctors in a past press conference in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County. North Rift medics in all the region's eight counties have no intention of going on strike as they have all received their salaries.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Baringo, Samburu, Turkana, West Pokot and Trans Nzoia counties and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital are not affected
  • Earlier this month, doctors in the region had threatened to go on strike over the delayed implementation of the 2017-2021 CBA in some counties
  • In Nandi county, Governor Stephen Sang acted swiftly an paid medics before the Easter holidays through local arrangements
  • In Trans Nzoia, Governor George Natembeya promised earlier this month to set up a doctors' lounge, among other reforms, to improve their working conditions

Normality is expected in health facilities across the North Rift region after medic workers confirmed that they received their salaries on time, and did not have to go on strike.

Dr Darwin Ambuka, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) North Rift chairperson, said medics in all the region's eight counties had received their salaries.

Those that would have been affected are health care facilities in Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Baringo, Samburu, Turkana, West Pokot and Trans Nzoia counties, as well as the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Moi University.

"We have our problems but the salaries have been paid. We have other issues and the engagements are ongoing," Dr Ambuka told the Nation by phone on Tuesday.

In Nandi, all health workers received their dues last week along with the rest of the staff.

The district secretary, Dr Francis Sang, said the county had made arrangements with banks to pay health workers on time to avert the strike.

Dr Sang, however, called on the National Treasury to speed up the disbursement of funds to counties to avert a financial crisis that threatens to undermine county operations.

He said Governor Stephen Sang had acted swiftly before the Easter holidays to ensure that health services were not disrupted by having all county staff paid through local arrangements while they wait for the National Treasury to act.

Strike threat

Earlier this month, doctors in the region threatened to go on strike over the delayed implementation of the 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in some counties.

They also complained of a shortage of qualified doctors in various districts.

Secretary of the North Rift branch of KMPDU Kamonzi Mulei also protested that poor policies, inadequate funding and lack of qualified health workers in most counties were affecting service delivery. 

"The health system is dysfunctional in most districts except MTRH. They have collapsed and the rest should benchmark with MTRH.

"We need a specialised health system because as it is, we have more referrals to MTRH for specialised services. We don't have a neurosurgeon in most counties," said Dr Kamonzi.

Last November, the doctors' union petitioned the national government and counties to hire 5,000 doctors to fill the gap and improve health service delivery.

Doctors in Elgeyo Marakwet told the Nation that they would not join their colleagues in the planned strike because payments were up to date.

Elgeyo Marakwet KMPDU secretary-general, Dr Maurice Kipsang Chebasa, said the doctors had received all their money as expected and there was no need to down their tools.

"It is only the statutory deductions that are yet to be paid. We have received a communication that the county is waiting for funds from the national government to enable them to pay the deductions and after discussing with them, we have agreed to their request," he said.

Dr Chebasa said the county government had shown goodwill in addressing their issues, so they would give the government some time to address their problems before deciding to take industrial action.

'We are okay'

The same was the case in Trans Nzoia, West Pokot, Nandi and Turkana counties where health workers confirmed that they will not go on strike as they are being paid on time and therefore have no reason to participate.

"We are usually paid between the 25th and 28th of every month," said Dr Gilbert Korir, the KMPDU liaison officer in West Pokot County. Nurses in the county also confirmed that there were no plans to go on strike.

In Trans Nzoia, KPMDU officials and Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Kitale branch secretary Edward Cheruiyot told the Nation that they had no reason to take part in the planned strike.

Earlier this month, Governor George Natembeya promised to set up a doctors' lounge, among other reforms, to improve working conditions for doctors.

"We do not have any serious contentious issue that will make us protest because the governor has been very supportive in improving our working conditions so that services in our district will not be disrupted," said Mr Cheruiyot.

However, he revealed that some health workers who did not turn up for a recent county government staff count had been affected by the payment of their salaries.

Mr Natembeya promised to look into the matter because those who did not turn up for the staff verification exercise were not paid. He said vouchers were being prepared to ensure they received their salaries.

No dispute

Ms Zaituni Mula, a KMPDU official in Trans Nzoia, said all the medics had received their salaries and there was no dispute.

"We will work normally because we have no problem with the county government. We will not go on strike," Ms Mula said.

A spot check at Kitale County Referral Hospital showed normal services, with health workers reporting for duty.

Specialists and other health workers are on duty at Lodwar County and Referral Hospital in Turkana County after their salaries were all paid.

Dr Kidalio Ekiru, the deputy director and head of Clinical Services at Lodwar County and Referral Hospital, said the March salaries of all health workers had been paid in full.

County Health Executive Anthony Apalia confirmed plans to ensure health workers are paid on time so that services are not disrupted.

We don't foresee a situation where health workers in Turkana County will join the strike from tomorrow," he said.