Doctor's body vows to launch a nationwide strike starting Friday March 1

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Deputy Secretary General KMPDU, Dr Dennis Miskellah says they’ll make an official announcement Friday, March 1 where they will announce a nationwide strike.

What you need to know:

  • According to Dr Miskellah, the ministry officials revealed a funding bottleneck as the reason behind the delay which prompted the protestors to march towards the Treasury, “hoping to compel the release which was budgeted for postings.”

A protest by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) demanding the swift posting of medical interns turned chaotic Thursday, February 29 as the union's Secretary General, Dr Davji Atellah, sustained a head injury while walking from the Ministry of Health to the Treasury.

“The ministry officials showed us the letters of the interns posting saying that they are ready to post but the treasury had delayed disbursement of funds,” says KMPDU deputy secretary, Dr Dennis Miskellah.

Protest by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) demanding the swift posting of medical interns. 

Photo credit: Pool

According to Dr Miskellah, the ministry officials revealed a funding bottleneck as the reason behind the delay which prompted the protestors to march towards the Treasury, “hoping to compel the release which was budgeted for postings.”

As the procession reached the NSSF building towards Argwings Kodhek Road, Dr Atellah, who was at the forefront of the march, sustained a head injury. The cause of this injury is shrouded in confusion, with conflicting reports emerging.

Initially, the KMPDU Deputy Secretary-General reported that Dr Atellah had been shot at by a police officer known to them. However, eyewitness accounts from students involved in the protest claim they saw a man in civilian clothes launch a teargas canister towards the crowd. During the incident, KMPDU alleges that tens of students also suffered minor injuries.

“The secretary-general is going through treatment right and thankfully; he is in a stable condition at the Nairobi Hospital,” said KMPDU.

The hospital’s management stated that they were unable to share any details about his condition.

Davji Atellah

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists' Union (KMPDU) Secretary General Dr Davji Bhimji Atellah.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

In a public statement, the union has called for the arrest of those responsible for the attack and vows that they will not be intimidated or suppressed to speak or dissent.

Representing interns from Moi University, Aggrey Awajo condemned the incident and called for fair treatment of medical doctors.

“We express our disappointment with the government’s response to the peaceful demonstration.  Healthcare workers, who are on the frontline of the nation’s health, deserve fair treatment and the right to voice their concerns without fear of harm,” he said.

Kenya Environmental Health and Public Health Practitioners (KEHPU) has also called upon the national police service to conduct a thorough investigation into the event.

This incident comes amidst ongoing frustration within the medical community regarding the delayed posting of medical interns. Over 1,000 students, including medical officers, pharmacists, and dental officers, remain unposted.

The KMPDU has previously urged the Ministry of Health to expedite the posting process. Following Dr Atellah's injury coupled with the delays, the union announced its intention to launch a nationwide strike starting Friday March 1.

“An attack on our leader is an attack on all Kenyan doctors,” he said.

Early last month, some medical interns went to the virtual street of X (formerly Twitter) to air their grievances regarding delayed placement using the hashtag #SomeoneTellNakhumicha.

“It is my birthday today but I have nothing to celebrate! The degree I have has been rendered useless, simply because the @MOH_Kenya has refused to post us! #SomeoneTellNakhumicha that we're tired, frustrated, and depressed. Our lives are literally on hold!” read one tweet.

“#SomeoneTellNakhumicha that our extended patience is nearing its end. The delay persists, and so does our determination,” read another.

According to the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council, there are about five steps to getting an internship in the medical field. It includes balloting, oathing, placement, posting, internship license and transfers (if need be).

KMPDC’s 2019 Internship guidelines for training of medical and dental officer interns show that they should be posted within a month after successfully completing their training in medical school and passing their final examination.

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 Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) demanding the swift posting of medical interns. 

It is the mandate of the Health ministry to post the interns to the different hospitals where they have been placed.

But, what does their absence in the hospital as interns mean for Kenya?

Already, another set of interns are out of hospitals, insinuating a gap that needs to be filled by about 1300 medical students who completed their training in July last year.

Elisha Otieno, the official spokesperson of the Internship Liaison Committee for the medical students of different cadres who are also waiting to get a posting letter is frustrated by the long wait.

In an interview with the Nation, he said that he is wondering why the Ministry is taking too long to post them.

“We know that there is an existing gap in the hospitals. The interns from the previous cohort are done with their internship. This means that the hospitals need us, but we are still idling at home,” he said.

“Some of the medical interns reported to the stations that they were placed but they were told to go back home because they did not have the letters with them,” he added.

However, some interns whose hospitals don’t require a posting letter are already working.

“This makes us feel left behind because our course mates are now ahead of us, we should all be interns at the same time,” he told the Nation.

When the new cabinet secretary for health came to power, one of the key issues she raised in an exclusive interview with the Nation was that industrial action would be unheard of during her tenure.

President William Ruto reiterated the same in a deal with health unions at a past Kericho meeting urging them not to strike to give him time to ensure smooth sailing for Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

In the Kenya Kwanza plan for attaining UHC, one of the key pressing matters the President promised to deal with was to hire about 20,000 healthcare workers.

The 2023 budget policy statement detailed that one of their commitments is to prioritise employment of the healthcare workers.

Speaking to the Kenya Medical and Dentists Practitioner’s Union secretary general in February, Dr Davji Atella, he said that no new hiring has been done yet.

Health cabinet secretary last year said that Sh 21 billion had been set aside for this process, which would be done in a span of three years.

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A protest by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) demanding the swift posting of medical interns. 

A Kenya Health Workforce Report published in 2022 shows that the health worker-to-population ratio at the time was 13.8 per every 10, 000 individuals.

This is below the World Health Organisation’s requirement of 23 health care workers per every 10, 000 individuals.

Dr Davji worries that while prioritisation of primary health care is important for the attainment of UHC, leaving behind the curative aspect of it still cripples the system.

“An example is what is happening now. The hospitals are short-staffed because the interns who were there before are out, and the new interns are yet to be posted. We have not had new hires in a while. All this will be felt by patients who will have to wait longer to be treated. On the other hand, those working will have burnout and may not provide the quality care that is needed,” he explained.

In the latest budget cycle, healthcare financing went down compared to the financial year 2022/2023.

In the financial year 2023/2024 the Health Ministry received Sh141.2 billion, down from 146.8 billion in the previous financial year.

“What we are seeing now is more of talk than action, we need action and it should start with financing health care. We wonder whether the delay in posting interns is because of money. It is daunting to have them stay at home when they have completed training,” Dr Atellah told the Nation.

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