Doctors' strike: No white smoke yet as State, KMPDU fail to agree on interns’ pay

Doctors strike

Hundreds of health workers participate in a demonstration in Nairobi on April 16, 2024.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Harmonisation of doctors' terms of service was agreed on, but no timelines were set.
  • Earlier, the government told the Nation they had told KMPDU to drop the court case but the union declined.  
  • Governors agreed to release doctors for post-graduate training based on staffing needs and availability of resources.

The eight-hour-long night meeting between the government and Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacist & Dentist Union (KMPDU) officials ended in a major disagreement over intern doctors' posting and pay. 

Government officials and KMPDU representatives were engaged in intense negotiations on Tuesday night until 4am on Wednesday in an attempt to beat Justice Byram Ongaya's order giving them until Wednesday 2.30pm to come up with a return to work formula and end the countrywide doctors' strike which has now lasted for over 50 days.

On Monday, the Labour Relations Court warned both parties that should they fail to come up with a return-to-work formula, it will be compelled to hear petitions and make a determination.  KMPDU first met the Council of Governors (CoG) at 4pm on Tuesday for two hours, a meeting that birthed the first ‘return-to-work formula’.

With governors, the union agreed on payment of all arrears, and medical insurance for the medics. Eleven counties do not have comprehensive medical cover for doctors.

Post-graduate training

Governors agreed to release doctors for post-graduate training based on staffing needs and availability of resources.

The governors also agreed to engage the National Treasury within 90 days and negotiate for doctors’ car loans and mortgages. They also resolved to put in place a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) within 30 days. Counties agreed to pay basic salary arrears in five instalments and submit all statutory deductions within 30 days.

On the promotion of doctors, the governors promised to start the process within a month and complete it by September 1, 2024. Harmonisation of doctors' terms of service was agreed on but no timelines were set.

The CoG and KMPDU agreed that doctors' issues in Kirinyaga and Nairobi counties would be dealt with by the union and the counties concerned.

The union promised to call off the strike and resume work within 24 hours of the "execution" of the return to work formula.

Tharaka-Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki, chairperson of the CoG Health Committee, assured that no doctor who took part in the national strike would be victimised.

After the meeting with the CoG, KMPDU moved to Afya House at 8pm on Tuesday for the second round of negotiations on the return-to-work formula. 


However, the negotiations, chaired by Health CS Susan Nakhumicha and attended by officials from the Ministry of Health, State House and KMPDU, reached an agreement on all contentious issues except the posting of interns and their salaries.

The government claimed that it could not engage KMPDU on the issue of payment of Sh206,000 to the interns as the matter is currently before the court.

 “The government cannot engage in subjudice; we cannot write something in a document as an agreement that is a matter of court determination. That court has not told us to go and register a consent,” CS Nakhumicha told KMPDU.

“It is the union that went to court, if it were the government, we could have withdrawn our court case so that we sort it out once and for all but we have no control over the court case.”

Earlier, the government told the Nation they had told KMPDU to drop the court case but the union declined. On interns, KMPDU maintained that the posting and payment should be done in accordance with the 2017 CBA in which the government agreed to pay doctor interns Sh206,000.

On basic salaries, KMPDU and the government agreed that the union should forward the names of doctors who have not been paid. The government committed to pay in 15 days.

The national government agreed to facilitate Sh3.5 billion to go to counties for payments within five years. KMPDU wanted the money disbursed to counties within three years.

It was also agreed that the harmonisation of terms of service would be done within 90 days. The government further agreed to pay post-graduate school fees for doctors from 2018 as it was by July 1, 2024.

Comprehensive medical cover

The government assured KMPDU that comprehensive medical cover for doctors will be in place by July 1, 2024. The government said that a new CBA will be signed with doctors in 90 days.

The negotiations between the government and KMPDU resolved to give new contracts to doctors at Kenyatta National Hospital.

 “81 doctors at Kenyatta National Hospital who were hired by the government and dispatched to counties under Universal Health Coverage (UHC) contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic will now be given three-year contracts instead of one year,” CS Nakhumicha said.

To address doctor’s issues at the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral & Research Hospital (KUTRRH), it was agreed that a new CBA will be put in place in the next 30 days. Contracts for KUTRRH employees will also be extended from one year to three years.

The government agreed and committed to employ an additional 2,000 doctors to support the implementation of UHC by the financial year 2025/2026.  

CS Nakhumicha said that in the last financial year, counties employed 800 doctors. 

The government committed that doctors would be promoted within 90 days after calling off the strike.   An inter-governmental task force will be formed within 14 days after KMPDU signs the return-to-work formula to address doctors' human resource issues.

“No doctor will be victimised for participating in the nationwide strike,” Ms Nakhumicha assured.

The government now hopes KMPDU will show up at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre by today for the signing of the return-to-work formula.

The documents will then be submitted to the Labour Relations Court by government lawyers ahead of Justice Ongaya’s 2.30pm deadline.

Speaking to Nation KMPDU Deputy Secretary General Dennis Miskellah, the union is currently having its national advisory council meeting to deliberate on what the government has offered and the contentious issue of interns' posting and pay before putting their decision to a vote.