No let-up in health crisis as governors reject new deal

doctors strike

Kenya Medical Pharmacists and Dentist Union Chairman Dr Chibanzi Mwachonda addresses the press after meeting with some 300 doctors from Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale at the Kenya Medical Association offices on January 8, 2021.  

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mombasa county boss Ali Hassan Joho announced the dismissal of the striking doctors and advertised the vacancies.
  • The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council  stopped the termination of the doctors in Mombasa.

There is no sign of an end to the crisis in public health as doctors yesterday vowed to paralyse operations if their demands are not met by the two levels of government.

There has been an uneasy calm since doctors called off their strike on December 24 as clinicians followed suit last weekend.

But governors have refused to pay the workers, even dismissing some.

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) members said they would urge their colleagues in private hospitals to go on strike, especially in Mombasa where 86 were dismissed on Wednesday.

It is not clear if workers at the private institutions will join the strike.

Services at public hospitals are likely to be paralysed yet again after clinical officers started their strike early yesterday, accusing governors of not being sincere in the negotiations.

Nurses have been out of work for a month, with laboratory technicians joining them this week.

Doctors and clinical officers reported to hospitals last week after signing return-to-work deals with the Ministries of Health and Labour. However, governors refused to recognise the agreements.

400 striking nurses

Among those dismissed is KMPDU Secretary-General Chibanzi Mwachoda.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KMPDC) stopped the termination of the doctors in Mombasa.

The council urged the doctors to report to work immediately as negotiations continue.

“The county government has given its commitment to achieving an amicable resolution of the issues being raised on immediate assumption of duty by the doctors,” KMPDC chief executive Daniel Yumbya said.

The council said it is ready to send a representative to the negotiations between the union and Mr Joho’s administration.

“In the spirit of ensuring services are uninterrupted and appreciating that the country is still battling the Covid-19 pandemic, the council has through its representatives held discussions with the county government. We have been reliably informed that negotiations are underway,” he said.

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta promised the striking workers at least 500 per cent raise in risk allowance.

But governors said the agreement is not tenable, adding that they were not consulted.

Risk allowance

Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui has called an emergency meeting with stakeholders on Monday, including his Health colleague Mutahi Kagwe, the Council of Governors, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), the National Treasury, the Federation of Kenya Employers and the Public Service Commission.

In the document signed at Afya House, the doctors and clinical officers were assured of quality and standard PPE and an increase in risk allowance of 650 and 500 per cent respectively.

According to the deal, counties are to procure comprehensive group life insurance, last expense, enhanced work injury benefits and group personal accident cover as provided for by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

“Additionally, the devolved units will make arrangements to procure the comprehensive medical cover...on expiry of the contracts signed between counties and other insurance providers by February 28,” the agreement says.

Clinical officers say they will stage demos from Monday.

“We heeded the President’s call but governors have their agenda,” Kenya Union of Clinical Officers Secretary-General George Gibore said yesterday.

Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya said some issues raised in the deal have huge monetary implications not factored in the current budget or the next financial year.

Poor services

“It will require a special conditional grant for every county,” the Kakamega governor said.

He added that converting contracts to permanent and pensionable terms requires huge resources.

“We need resources to cover families for eight years. We need time to work out the actual figures. NHIF it will not work in all counties due to poor services. Counties have different insurance schemes for their workers,” Mr Oparanya said.

Meanwhile, private hospitals continue grappling with crowding. Some patients are turning to traditional cures.

St Akidiva Memorial Hospital director Aggrey Akidiva said the maternity section is stretched, with more than 20 deliveries recorded yesterday.

Some patients are still in the ward as they depend on the Linda Mama scheme and cannot settle the maternity fees.

“Linda Mama and NHIF payments have not been activated. We resolved to operate on a cash basis,” he said.

By Angela Oketch, Winnie Atieno, Ian Byron, Benson Ayienda and Derick Luvega.


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