Nakhumicha: Doctors’ union boss attack was an accident

Susan NAkhumicha health cs

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru I Nation Media Group

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha has broken her silence on the attack of the doctor’s union boss, saying it was an accident.

At the same time, Ms Nakhumicha says her ministry does not have the Sh4.9 billion needed to hire and post medical interns.

CS Nakhumicha explained that if the Treasury does not disburse the money, she will have to change the laws to make the posting of the medical interns affordable.

“They (medical interns) have not been posted for internship because they want a salary which I don’t have.

"To post all these, I need Sh4.9 billion. I don’t have. If treasury gives me money, then I’ll post (them). If the treasury does not give me, I’ll change the law so that then they can be affordable. Otherwise for now, they are not affordable,” she said in Narok.

On Thursday when the medical interns were demonstrating over the delayed posting, the Medical Practitioners Pharmacists Dentists Union (KMPDU) secretary general Dr Davji Atellah was hit in the head. A tear gas canister was lobbed at him at close range, the union said.

Dr Atellah suffered a fracture in the skull, internal bleeding as well as several other injuries. And, his attack elicited anger and fury among the medical fraternity.

However, the Health CS said that nobody intended to hurt the KMPDU secretary general, explaining that it was just an accident.

“That was an accident. I don’t think anybody intended to hurt the SG. I called him myself and told him that nobody wanted to hurt him. It was just to disperse but by bad luck, it hit him on the head,” she said, adding that “there’s no reason to worry. They (medics) are safe,” said Ms Nakhumicha.

As a result of the attack, Dr Atellah was stitched 12 times and was admitted at the high dependence unit, the union said.

The KMPDU, the taxpayer-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu), and the Kenya Medical Association and several lobby groups condemned the attack.

The lobby groups further demanded an immediate and independent audit of what happened that day as well as the arrest and prosecution of those involved and an apology over what they termed an “attempted assassination.”

Dr Atellah was leading his colleagues on the streets to demand the swift posting of medical interns, who have stayed home for the last eight months, awaiting posting that would eventually allow them to obtain their licenses of practice.

The protest also sought to ensure swift payment of school fees for specialist doctors, which has delayed for four years.

KMPDU explained that before the protests, they had delivered a notice on February 26 to the Regional Police Commander, OCPD Kilimani police station and the OCS Capitol Hill Police Station on the intended demonstration. The demonstrations suddenly went south.

“The police had promised to accompany us to those offices, and they sure did, both uniformed and un-uniformed. It therefore came as a shock to us that a police officer took a gun, aimed at the secretary-general, and shot him in the head.

"They then fired teargas canisters at the doctors, causing a stampede that further injured 25 doctors,” said Dr Dennis Miskellah, KMPDU’s Deputy Secretary General told journalists after the incident.

The doctors’ union also demands that the government and the National Treasury prioritise the setting up of a team to resolve all the healthcare human resource affairs.

“Failure to abide by the above by March 3, 2024, Unions, all doctors and healthcare workers both in public and in the private sector shall carry out nationwide demonstrations starting on Monday, March 4, 2024, until the Deputy OCS is charged in court for his aggressive crimes. We shall also give a seven-day national strike notice on all pending and unresolved healthcare matters,” announced Dr Miskellah.