Families of fallen medics yet to be compensated

Chibanzi Mwachonda

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union boss Dr Chibanzi Mwachonda.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The government is yet to compensate the families of the frontline health workers who died in the line of duty almost a year of President Uhuru Kenyatta's directive that a welfare package be developed to cushion them from the ravages of Covid-19.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) acting Secretary-General Dr Chibanzi Mwachonda confirmed to the Nation that the families of the 16 doctors who have since died in the line of duty are yet to get a penny from the government despite numerous requests.

“The families of the doctors we lost on the frontline of Covid-19 have not been compensated yet,” Dr Mwachonda told Nation.

But even as Dr Mwachonda spoke, Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Secretary-General Seth Panyako said that so far 34 nurses have died on the frontline against the pandemic.

Mr Panyako equally confirmed that the families of the affected nurses are yet to be compensated by the state.

“No one has been compensated, that's why we went on strike,” said Mr Panyako.

Yesterday, Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina and nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said that the continued delay in the implementation of the package will affect the government’s planning.

“Many civil servants and the police have been injured or died since last year but their families are yet to be paid,” Mr Kina said.

Mr Osotsi warned that the continued accumulation of claims will likely overwhelm NHIF. 

“Other than fast-tracking the payment of claims, the government should also publicize the cover so that the affected families in the rural areas get to know of the package and when to file claims,” Mr Osotsi noted.

“I am saying this because Covid-19 requires occupational cover,” the nominated MP says.

In his fourth presidential address to the country on the Covid-19 pandemic on April 16, 2020, at state house, Nairobi, President Kenyatta announced that the welfare package would be developed for health workers on the frontline against Covid-19.

Those targeted in the special package as per the presidential directive included the frontline medical doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

Subsequent to the presidential directive, the National Treasury and the Ministry of Public Service were tasked to develop a package.

The two ministries came up with a package that comprised Comprehensive Group Life cover with Covid, Group Personal Accident (GPA) and Work Injury Benefits Act (Wiba) that covered all civil servants, doctors, nurses and National Youth Service (NYS) staff.

On November 18, 2020, a Sh6.3 billion package was launched with the National Treasury contracting the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) as the lead insurer to roll out the cover to the civil servants including the frontline health workers and NYS staff.

The package is an improvement from the group life expense benefit and last expense benefit that have previously been allocated annual premiums of Sh839 million.

It also cushions the government from double liability claims from employees who die while in service.

By the time of going to press yesterday, NHIF Chief Executive Officer Dr Peter Kamunyo had not responded why the affected families have not been compensated. 

A cabinet memo which approved the deal signed on October 14, 2020, between the National Treasury and NHIF shows that Sh3.30 billion was to cater for the Comprehensive Group Life with Covid-19 Cover.

The others include Sh568.30 million for last expense cover principal for spouse and dependents, Sh1.18 billion for Group Personal Accident (GPA) and Sh1.33 billion for Wiba- as per the WIBA Act 2007 and Covid- 19 Cover.

The package is designed such that the category of government employees who die in service from illnesses will receive eight years’ gross salary while those who die from occupational illness like Covid-19 will receive 16 years’ salary.

Those who die from accidents will have their families paid by the Group life, GPA and WIBA policies for a total of 24 years’ salary.

Principals are covered for Sh200,000 for funeral benefits, where a spouse and dependents are covered for Sh100,000.

Critical diseases like cancer and heart problems are covered for a limit of Sh3 million over and above the NHIF medical limit.

On November 16, 2020, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua directed for the immediate facilitation and fast-tracking of cover by the NHIF on the Covid-19.

“The President reiterates that his focus is to ensure the country is protected from the effects of Coronavirus,” Mr Kinyua’s statement read. However, to date, nothing seems to have been actualized.

Before the Sh6.3 billion package was signed, the State House-based Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services (DOSHS) directed that every employer shall obtain and maintain an insurance policy with an insurer registered by the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA).

This is in respect of any liability that the employer may incur under the WIBA Act to any of his employees in accordance with section 7 (1) of the WIBA Act.

“The said policy shall explicitly confirm that all occupational diseases and confirmed occupational exposures to Covid-19 are covered under that insurance,” the June 29, 2020, statement by DOSHS read.