Government accuses doctors of insincerity on strike

Head of Public Service Felix Koskei

Head of Public Service Felix Koskei.

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

Head of Public Service Felix Koskei has accused doctors of dishonesty and blatant disregard for court orders for failing to attend a meeting scheduled for Monday evening to resolve the ongoing doctors' strike.

The strike, called by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), is now on its 41st day.

“We have made strenuous efforts to resolve the dispute peacefully,” the Chief of Staff remarked.

“The courts have declared the strike illegal, yet the union leadership and members have shown no respect for these orders.”

Despite several extensions by the Employment and Labour Relations Court, the government said the KMDPU's failure to respect the courts and call for talks was responsible for the crippled health services in public hospitals.

On Monday afternoon, negotiations appeared promising, with the government claiming that the parties had agreed on 18 of the 19 issues listed by the doctors' union, with the issue of intern doctors being the insurmountable obstacle.

The KMPDU, however, denied these claims and insisted that the strike would continue until an agreement was reached on all issues.

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

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha echoed this frustration but stressed the government's proactive efforts.

"We have been extremely patient and accommodating to the union," Nakhumicha stated. "The Ministry has secured Sh6.1 billion to settle salary arrears and internship payments."

Nakhumicha detailed the distribution of funds for medical insurance, postgraduate training and basic salary arrears.

She also confirmed that the government would be submitting a status report to the court and requesting a review of the court's orders to ensure the continuation of health services.

Internship policy

CS Nakhumicha also emphasised the ministry's commitment to reviewing the internship policy.

"This will be aligned with the inflow of interns from the eight teaching universities and to equally align it to the reality of the fiscal space of the country," she explained.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Council of Governors reiterated that the county governments had agreed to address all county-specific issues raised by the union.

 "We have given in to everything on the county side," the Chairperson stated. "Medical insurance, postgraduate study leave, car loan and mortgage schemes – all agreed upon."

The chairman warned of "necessary action" against the striking doctors to ensure the continuation of health services.

"It is most unfortunate that the doctors deliberately refused and ignored or disregarded the courtesies extended to them. The doctors are therefore insensitive to the suffering and plight of vulnerable Kenyans and their need for health services. We wish to reiterate that all county-specific issues raised by the union have been duly agreed,” she said.

“This is therefore simply unacceptable and we have left it to the county governments and their respective employers to deal with this long unjustified strike as they see fit within their HR policies and practices. We therefore advise all county governments to take appropriate and necessary action to ensure that health services are not disrupted going forward," she said.