'You're fired!': Counties issue dismissal letters to striking doctors

Council of Governors Chairperson Anne Waiguru

Council of Governors Chairperson Anne Waiguru (centre), Deputy Chairperson Ahmed Abdullahi (left), Head of Public Service Felix Koskei and Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha address journalists during a past event.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Counties have started issuing dismissal letters to doctors who are yet to return to work.

The letters, which cite the doctors’ absence as a breach of their employment contracts, signal a new phase in the ongoing standoff between healthcare professionals and the government.

In a doctors' WhatsApp group, over 50 of them in 17 counties indicated that they had received their dismissal letters for desertion of duty and gross misconduct.

“I have this morning received my dismissal letter. They have said that I have absconded duty and that I do not exist on their payroll. None of these intimidations will scare us. We will not go to work until the last doctor is fired,” said one of the doctors.

Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Deputy Secretary-General Dennis Miskellah confirmed that he was fired.

“I have not earned my salary for the last nines months and I have been working. They owe us and are now dismissing us because we are just asking for what is rightfully ours. We will not relent. Let them fire all the doctors,” he said.

Dr Miskella, a senior medical officer and a gynaecologist in Embu County, said that he had six months to appeal and apply for a review of the County Public Service Board decision.

“This is to convey to you the decision of the County Public Service Board vide letter which resolved you to be dismissed from service on account of desertion of duty and gross misconduct as stipulated in the Human Resource Policies and Procedure Manual,” his letter, signed by County Secretary Amy Ruria, reads.

The doctors had issued a list of 19 issues they wanted settled by their employers before agreeing to a return to work formula. According to the national government and counties, 18 of the 19 issues have been addressed, except the one on interns, which they said will be taken up by the court since the doctors, through their proxies, had taken the matter to court.

“The union backtracked on the return-to-work formula that we had mutually settled on after a series of six marathon meetings. Their new demand on medical interns is an all-or-nothing out-of-court settlement,” Head of Public Service, Felix Koskei said.

Health Cabinet Secretary, Susan Nakhumicha said that the government has released Sh3.5 billion for payment of salary arrears from 2017 to June 2014, to be paid over five financial years.

“We have received Sh6.1 billion to settle all the issues raised by the doctors. We have also embarked on a review of the medical internship programme from the eight teaching universities to realign it with the reality that the country is facing,” she said.

Governors said that they had agreed that counties that had not provided medical cover for the doctors would begin the process to acquire the same, and that doctors would be released for postgraduate studies based on needs and longevity of service. They also agreed engage the National Treasury in the next six months to set up a car loans and mortgages scheme for doctors.

On the collective bargaining agreement, the governors agreed to coordinate the process of negotiating a new one with every county government within 30 days while paying salary arrears accrued from the 2017-2021 CBA upon receipt of a conditional grant from Treasury.