Medical interns: We were duped

Medical interns

Medical interns demonstrate at the Ministry of Health headquarters in Nairobi on July 8, 2024.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Majority of the interns who have been waiting for internship letters for almost two years.
  • They said they had lost faith in the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacist & Dentist Union.

Sixty days after the signing of a return to work formula between the government and the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacist & Dentist Union (KMPDU) with a promise that medical interns’ issues will be resolved in two months, hundreds of medical interns on Monday staged a peaceful outside the health ministry demanding to be posted immediately.

Majority of the interns who have been waiting for internship letters for almost two years   told Nation they had lost faith in KMPDU officials which is why they have decided to ‘fight for themselves’.  

“The health ministry has been sleeping on the job, some of my colleagues here with me, like myself, have been waiting for an internship since 2022. MoH is now trying to divide our group into batches and we reject it,” Hassan Ali, a medical intern told Nation.

“Last night we had a meeting with KMPDU officials and we are so angry that they are in bed with the government on things like the idea of ‘batch posting, how can they be comfortable with such and disregard what the 2017 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) they signed with the government dictates?" he posed. 

The young medic also said that they have never heard from KMPDU chair Dr Abidan Mwachi over their issues.

“He went mute after they signed their agreement with MoH, it’s like they are now working to save the face of the ministry, not for us who they used during the nationwide wide doctors strike and dumped with nothing to show,” he said. 

“The impunity KMPDU has meted against us interns is saddening,” the young man with tears almost racing in his eyes told Nation. 

Like Mr Ali, Dr Nancy Charity has also been waiting for her internship.

“I graduated last year and have been waiting to be posted for the last one year, this is why I have come to the streets to tell CS Nakhumicha that the 60 days she asked us to wait for have elapsed yesterday,” the young doctor started off. 

“We want to be posted right now while they are focused on divide and rule, just post everyone and pay us as per the 2017 CBA. To President William Ruto, keep your promise and post interns as you assured and have your CS ensure that this is done as soon as yesterday,” Dr Charity said while urging the CS to listen to interns.

“You are here to serve us and we are tired of waiting, otherwise if you can’t, you must go.”

Mr Blasio Were, a medical officer intern who spoke on behalf of the interns in an official statement, reminded that the salaries and remuneration commission (SRC)released a circular which was contrary to the 2017 CBA.

“KMPDU went to court and objected to it, the court stayed the SRC circular but MoH still failed to post interns which is a violation of court orders and the judiciary,” he said.

“You cannot be licensed to practice without going through an internship which is why most of us are frustrated, “he added. 

Mr Were is of the view that KMPDU ‘used’ them.

“KMPDU is in bed with the government. They called off the nationwide doctor’s strike because out of the 19 issues they had then raised, 18 had been agreed to by the government save for one, the interns posting and pay,” he highlighted. 

“The issue of internship was supposed to be discussed within 60 days and now the 60 days expired yesterday, as we speak there’s a deadlock in the discussions and we feel we have been thrown under the bus,” the interns representative said. 

A high ranking senior health ministry official who is not authorized to speak however disclosed to Nation that MoH has been meeting KMPDU officials since Tuesday last week.

The officials include Dr Davji, Dr Dennis Miskellah, the deputy secretary general of KMPDU and Dr Kahura Mundia, KMPDU deputy chairperson.

“You see KMPDU built their entire doctors strike on the issue of medical interns and their pay, they made headway with all other issues save for this one because the CS told them to go and consult the HR department,” he said.

“The CS had a meeting with KMPDU officials this morning, they were giving her a report after which they left for Treasury to try and solve the stalemate but you remember this matter is still in court,” the high ranking official told Nation. 

“Remember, the government agreed to pay postgraduate school fees for doctors from 2018 by 1st of July 2024 and assured KMPDU that a comprehensive medical cover for Kenyan doctors will be in place by 1st of July this year, this is yet to happen and is why KMPDU officials have been coming here actually,” he said.

On 8th of May 2024, a Tuesday in an eight-hour night of long knives featuring the government and KMPDU ended in a major disagreement over the posting and pay of intern doctors. 

In fact, government officials and KMPDU were engaged in intense heated negotiations until 4am the next day.

This was in an effort to beat Justice Byram Ongaya’s order of coming up with a return-to-work formula by 2:30pm on May 9, 2024. 

The labour relations court then warned both parties that if they failed to come up with a return-to-work formula, it would be compelled to hear petitions and make a determination.  

In the meeting at Afya House two months ago, the negotiations were chaired by CS Nakhumicha and attended by health ministry officials and state house officials and KMPDU.

Parties agreed on all contentious issues apart from posting of intern doctors and their pay.

The government maintained it cannot engage KMPDU on the issue of paying interns Sh 206,000 as it is a matter that is currently before a judge and ongoing in court.

“The government cannot engage in subjudice; we cannot write something in a document as an agreement that is a matter of court determination. That court has not told us in any way to go and register a consent,” CS Nakhumicha told KMPDU.

“It is the Union that went to court, if it were the government, we could have withdrawn our court case so that we sort it out once and for all but we have no control over the court case.”

The government then told Nation that earlier they had told KMPDU to drop the court case so that they would agree but the Union refused, entered on record as an interested party and maintained that they wished to proceed on with the court case.

On interns KMPDU maintained that the posting and payment should be done in accordance with the 2017 CBA in which the government agreed to pay doctor interns Sh206,000 each.

The negotiations between the government and KMPDU then birthed a new addition as well.

“81 doctors at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) who were hired by the government and dispatched to counties under Universal Health Coverage(UHC) contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic will now be given three year contracts instead of one year,”CS Nakhumicha said.

This is also yet to happen. 

By 8am on Monday this week, KMPDU secretary general Dr Davji Atellah had arrived at Afya House for a closed door meeting with CS Nakhumicha among other health ministry officials over the promises the government made during the signing of the return to work formula.

By 9:35am just before intern protesters showed up, Dr Davji drove off from the health ministry.

Ten minutes later, CS Nakhumicha would also leave Afya House with officials disclosing to Nation that they were moving their discussions to Treasury as the stalemate over payment and posting of interns intensifies.