Reprieve for patients as court suspends doctors' strike

Doctors strike

Doctors demonstrate in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on March 01, 2024, over the attack of medics' union Secretary General Dr Devji Atellah.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

The Employment and Labour Relations Court has suspended the ongoing doctors' strike to allow the parties to conclude ongoing negotiations.

Justice Byram Ongaya also expanded a conciliation committee set up by the Labour Ministry to include the Head of the Civil Service, the Ministries of Finance, Public Service, Labour and Social Protection, the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Council of Governors and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

The judge also said the Central Organisation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) should join the talks to agree on a comprehensive report on the issues raised by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU).  

“Pending further orders of the court or return date, the conciliation committee appointed by the CS Labour and chaired by Linus Kariuki to expeditiously conclude tripartite memorandum of understanding on the minimum services shall be provided in the event of a strike,” the judge said.

Justice Ongaya said the minimum services must be strictly maintained as necessary without rendering the strike ineffective.

The court said the minimum services must include the number of doctors in each cadre of union members and the respective duties to be performed in the event of a strike. 

He directed that the memorandum of understanding be submitted to the court on March 20 when the parties return to him.

Ongoing negotiations and conciliation

“For avoidance of doubt, the strike notice dated March 6, 2024, and any strike as flowing therefrom, is hereby stayed or suspended to allow for national approach now instituted as well as the ongoing negotiations and conciliation to arrive at a lasting solution and sustainable solution to the instant dispute,” the judge said. 

The doctors, through their lawyer Edgar Washika, had agreed to provide minimum services to patients in critical condition. He said the government was taking the doctors in cycles and there was nothing more to negotiate. The lawyer said the doctors were ready to provide essential services, but the court should allow them to continue with the strike. 
The doctors' proposal was to have one doctor, one dentist and one pharmacist at levels 2, 3 and 4 and two specialists in critical areas at referral hospitals.
The government, however, insisted that all services should be provided while the parties continue negotiations.
Lawyer Mmene Eredi said the time given to the parties to reach an agreement was not enough and they needed more time to reach a consensus. 
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