KMPDU moves to calm nerves as medical interns remain unposted

Striking doctors

Doctors and medical staff take part in a peaceful protest along Ngong Road, Nairobi on March 22, 2024.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • President William Ruto recently met with officials of the doctors' union.
  • The meeting occurred just days after the doctors called off their strike.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentist Union (KMPDU) officials on Wednesday met the yet to be posted interns and sought to assure them that the union had not abandoned them.

This happened in the backdrop of the recent meeting between the union officials and President William Ruto, which occurred just days after the doctors' strike was called off, despite no agreement on posting interns.

According to KMPDU Secretary General Dr Davji Atellah, the union and government failed to agree on posting of interns following a disagreement on remuneration.

The government wanted interns to be posted as per a circular released by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), which had slashed the intern doctors' salaries by 91 per cent.

On the other hand, the union insisted that they should be paid according to what is stipulated in the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed between the union and the government. 

Dr Atellah said the issue would be solved within 60 days, with the deadline for posting being July 1, 2024.

"This meeting was occasioned by the swelling disillusionment of the interns, on the hope of them being posted to the facilities to offer the services. Most have waited for one year, some for eight months, and some for six months. Some are also being released by the universities while these issues remain pending. The issue was number one in our strike notice," explained Dr Atellah. 

"In our strike that took place for 56 days, it was clear that we were demanding for them to be posted immediately, but the government, through SRC, had a circular suggesting otherwise. We proceeded to court, which suspended this particular SRC circular. We had also a joint argument with government that we sit down within 60 days, which now is 52 days, to have this matter resolved. But amidst all this, the frustrations of this doctor still continue," said Dr Atellah. 

"That's why today we were telling them the intricacies of what we discussed in the state house and what we have as a union to ensure that our collective bargaining agreement is not violated and to tell them that the issues of them being posted is still a priority," he added. 

He explained that the delayed posting of the interns has left hospitals operating at only 60 per cent.

The moment KMPDU and govt officials inked deal to end 56-day doctors' strike

"This means about 60 per cent of services are being offered. We have to engage with the government on this matter, and we are on to ensure that this is sorted out within the 52 days that are remaining," explained Dr Atellah.

"We are also expediting the matter in court. We know these interns cannot be posted in anything that violates the existing CBAs. So that's what we are discussing with them today. Our hands are not tied to continue with the action we had started if things are unresolved. We were at State House and were given a resounding commitment that these things will be resolved," said Atellah. 

He explained that some sections of the government feared that if the interns were to be posted according to the 2017 CBA, contrary to what the SRC circular had advised, the SRC would move to court.

To avoid this, he explained that the union needs to sit down with SRC, the government, and the Ministry of Health to find a way around the matter without violating the CBA.

"In our return-to-work agreement, we have expressively said that for the next 60 days, the interns will not be posted until a final agreement has been reached. And that was drawn from the fact that, despite the matter being in court, there was a coercion to ask these interns to report to their different places of work, despite us not having an absolute direction on their remuneration packages," said Dr Atellah.

Chelsea Odera, one of the interns who attended the meeting, expressed joy at the meeting while explaining that interns felt the union had made a mistake in calling off the strike and that they felt stranded. The meeting, she added, was called following interns' calls for the union to be accountable to them. 

"We have plans regarding what we'd like to achieve, what we'd like to do, and how we'd like to give back to the community. But it was going to be halted by the delays that have been there. We didn't really understand how the court case was called and why the strike was called off. Thankfully, they did take the time to explain it. I don't want to say that we are necessarily 100 per cent satisfied because what will make us happy is to be posted," said Ms Odera.

"We'd like to be posted as per the CBA rates, and we'd like to start our service in the hospitals. If you stay home, you don't remain at the top of your game. We are happy that we've gotten an explanation and understood where the union stands now, what negotiations are going on and what we expect of it."  

"We know that in July, we will be posted. In terms of hope, our hope has been squashed. Saying that we are hopeful would be a lie. We can say that we believe those representing us will do their best. We also want to believe that the government will uphold its end of the bargain, said Odera.