The Kenya Health Professional Society has issued a two-week ultimatum to the government, demanding commitment to recruit 20,000 health workers yearly.
The union has set a deadline of July 13 for a number of their grievances to be addressed, failing which its members will down their tools in preparation for a nationwide strike.
At a press conference yesterday, the society outlined a number of demands, the main one being that the government should start immediate recruitment of its members.
The society is also demanding that the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) conduct a public participation forum to assure Kenyans that an increase in contribution towards the fund will lead to better services at the country’s health institutions.
On May 15, the umbrella organisation issued a 60-day strike notice to the Ministry of Health and county governments over the unresolved collective bargaining and recognition agreements, but their grivances are yet to be addressed.
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"As of today, 46 days later, we haven't seen any effort to finalise these collective agreements. We also note that this non-responsiveness has become the norm and a major saboteur of the harmonious working relationship between the unions, the ministry and the counties," said Kenya Union of Clinical Officers Secretary General George Gibore.
Mr Gibore added that the government’s unresponsiveness had deprived members of fair remuneration, decent working conditions and their right to collective bargaining.
"There is no doubt that access to health services has deteriorated, and the public health sector is unable to meet the health needs of Kenyans. Lack of adequate staffing with the right mix of health professionals is one of the myriad challenges contributing to the failure of the health system," he added, singling out Nakuru County, where a number of health workers were asked to reapply for their positions.
"While we don't support employment under hospital-based contracts, the county should consider absorbing all health workers who are now facing imminent dismissal to ensure uninterrupted delivery of health services," said Mr Gibore.
The association includes the Kenya National Union of Nurses, the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers and the Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers.
Mr Gibore said as the government pushes to increase the monthly NHIF contribution to 2.75 per cent, it was not clear whether this would result in better services for Kenyans.
"Many Kenyans are finding it difficult to use NHIF cards to access healthcare services against the backdrop of corruption scandals that have plagued the institution. NHIF needs to explain to Kenyans how increasing contributions will enable them to access quality services," read part of the statement issued by the Kenya Health Professional Society.
Commenting on this, NHIF acting CEO Samson Kuhora said many of those that would benefit included cancer patients and those in critical care.
"With the increase, we expect to spend Sh71 billion annually on cancer treatment alone, and this will cover 85 per cent of our population. Cancer is now the most expensive disease to treat, the increase will take care of that," said Dr Kuhora.