Striking doctors on Tuesday rejected a government offer to increase allowance by Sh50,000 per month.
Their union said it was not consulted about the deal announced by Medical Services assistant minister Kambi Kazungu and urged its members to continue with the boycott. (Read: Hospitals crippled as doctors go on strike)
As the strike entered the second day, hospitals in Western, Nyanza, Rift Valley and Central Provinces referred emergency cases to private health facilities.
Others turned to specialists from the medical school and clinical officers to plug the shortage, as MPs demanded quick resolution of the stalemate in Parliament.
Mr Kazungu said the government had reviewed various allowances based on its remuneration policy and not basic salary as per the demands of doctors.
“So far, the government has reviewed several allowances and introduced others such as extraneous allowance, among others. Each doctor will earn up to Sh50,000 per month in allowances only. This figure translates to about Sh1.35 billion per annum,” Mr Kazungu said at the Kenyatta National Hospital on Tuesday.
He asked doctors to return to work because “only the Salaries and Remuneration Commission could adjust the pay of public servants.”
But Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (PMPDU) secretary general Boniface Chitayi accused the ministry of mischief.
“The government should have informed us first so that we could consult with our national executive council and members. We have to negotiate, agree or disagree with the government, but it seems it is making an attempt to tilt the lever in its favour,” Dr Chitayi said.
In Nairobi, KNH management said it had contracted consultants to replace the striking doctors in all critical areas — paediatric emergency, critical care unit, burns unit, accident and emergency unit.
An administrator said the outpatient clinic was open and the cancer ward was operating as scheduled.
In Parliament, MPs called for a quick solution to the crisis.
Mr Benjamin Langat (Ainamoi, ODM) and Mr John Mbadi (Gwassi, ODM) said the salaries commission did not have mandate over doctors’ pay.
They said the commission was limited to setting the salaries of constitutional office holders only.
“This idea of hiding behind the Salaries and Remuneration Commission is not tenable,” Mr Mbadi said.
But Mr Kazungu insisted the ministry was “waiting for the advice of the commission” before acting on the proposal for a pay rise for the doctors.
Dr Eseli Simiyu (Kimilili, Ford Kenya) and Dr Boni Khalwale (Ikolomani, New Ford Kenya) said the ministry had violated the rights of the doctors when it withheld the pay for 95 of the doctors currently participating in the strike.
“This government has been hiding behind the Hippocratic Oath to underpay doctors. It thought that they won’t strike. Now what excuse do you have to underpay them?” Dr Simiyu posed.
Dr Khalwale said the Sh1.3 billion package included allowances for drivers, mortuary attendants, cooks and even sweepers.
“Is the minister in order to lead doctors to discussions when he is hoodwinking them?” asked Dr Khalwale, who is also the chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
Mr Gitobu Imanyara (Imenti Central) asked Mr Kazungu to take the matter seriously.
He said while ministers and top civil servants had private hospitals and medical consultants at their disposal, most Kenyans relied on public hospitals.
The doctors went on strike on Monday to push for a pay rise, better working conditions and equipment in public hospitals.