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Inside the deal between governors and clinical officers

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Muthomi Njuki, Tharaka Nithi Governor and Chair, CoG Health Committee, Wajir Governor, Ahmed Abdullahi, Vice Chair, CoG Health Committee, Gibson Kibore, Secretary General, Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO) and Peterson Wachira, Chairperson KUCO during the signing of the return to work formula between KUCO and CoG bringing an end to the 99-day strike held by the clinical officers.

Clinical officers who downed their tools over three months ago will be reporting back to work today after their union called off the go-slow.

The Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco) on July 8, signed a deal with the Council of Governors (CoG), effectively bringing to an end, the industrial action that greatly affected the operations of health facilities in the country.

The deal is the climax of several meetings between Kuco and the CoG that began on May 24. It will see at least 6,700 medics return to work, ending an impasse that began in March when they downed their tools.

To get the officers back to work, the governors have agreed to negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) within two weeks, and ensure its implementation within 60 days from the date of signing of the return to work formula.

Before going on strike, the clinical officers decried the failure of counties to promote or re-designate its members. They have now agreed that the process for the promotion shall commence within a month and end by September 1.

The medics and governors have also struck a truce that will see county governments replace clinical officers “who have exited the service due to natural attrition and new officers annually based on the availability of resources.”

The two parties have agreed that counties will absorb all the clinical officers who were employed under the Universal Healthcare programme during the Covid-19 pandemic period and that the Ministry of Health, through the National Treasury, shall allocate an adequate budget to cater for the medics’ salaries and allowances.

Another bone of contention that led to the strike was a failure by counties to provide medical cover to the clinical officers.

However, Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki, who is also the CoG, Health Committee chairperson said, that 40 counties have so far onboarded the clinical officers to a medical insurance scheme adding the remaining seven will do the same soon.

Kuco expressed its pleasure at the rapid response and now, the two sides have agreed that all county governments shall “commence and conclude the process of acquiring the medical cover enjoyed by other county public servants in accordance with the Public Service policies and guidelines by September 1, 2024” part of the agreement stated. 

Another key issue that Kuco and counties have agreed on, is the harmonisation of the terms of service of clinical officers employed by county governments. 

Speaking during the signing of the agreement, Governor Njuki said clinical officers play a critical role and it is imperative that they resume work.

He thanked Kuco leaders for calling off the strike. Governor Njuki also urged the clinical officers to be on the frontline in educating the masses regarding enlisting for the new Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) managed by the Social Health Authority (SHA), saying many still do not know that the previous model of NHIF is coming to an end.

“We have experienced a bit of resistance where our people think the decision being made to onboard them to SHIF is just about taxing them,” he said.

“The fact that we have come to an agreement and that within 60 days we will have addressed the issues we raised in our strike notice, is a good thing and we have with immediate effect, called off the strike,” Kuco chairperson Peterson Wachira. 

However, Mr Wachira clarified that the strike for clinical officers employed by the Ministry of Health was still on since the employer has yet to agree to negotiate with them to iron out their issues.