Doctors vow to keep off than perish at work

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
Pall bearers carry the body of Dr Stephen Mogusu during his burial at Bogeka village in Kisii county, yesterday. Photo/PD/ROBERT OCHORO

Hundreds of doctors commenced their nationwide strike yesterday, paralysing operations in public hospitals, which had already been hard hit by the ongoing nurses strike. 

The doctors maintained they will not be intimidated by threats of sacking from the government and vowed to only resume work once their grievances are addressed. 

Officials of the Kenya Medical Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), who spoke at the burial of Dr Stephen Mogusu who succumbed to Covid-19, warned the strike will continue until the government meets their demands.

KMPDU Secretary General Dr  Chibanzi Mwachonda, Oroko Obegi (chairman), Daisy Korir (Treasurer) and Nyanza KMPDU chairman Dr Kevin Osuri, warned doctors will not be forced to work in environments where their safety is not guaranteed.

They said they rather stay at home and be safe than go to work and die.

Mwachonda said;  “We will not undertake a suicide mission. No amount of money will bring back a dead doctor,” he added, referring to Mogusu.

He added: “Court orders will not stop Coronavirus or reduce infections among doctors.

We tabled our issues and gave the government 35 days, but nothing has been implemented,” Mwanchonda said.

Mogusu’s father, Naftal Ogweno and his wife Agnes Moraa lauded the government for offsetting their son’s hospital bill, praying for and supporting the family.

“If people are closer to you when you are grieving, it eases the burden. You prayed for our son to recover but time had come for him to rest,” Moraa told mourners.

Ogweno commended the county government for employing his daughter-in-law, saying it will help her care for her five-month-old child.

In Nakuru, scores of doctors joined their counterparts in the nationwide strike. 

Making good their threats, the doctors kept off their workstations as hospitals remained deserted with only intern doctors present. Critically ill patients were discharged.  

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui on the other hand said the county government had met all conditions agreed with the medics, including promotion of doctors and consultants and payment of their arrears in full.

He added that in addition, the county had issued comprehensive insurance for the doctors, supplied them with protective gear including PPEs. 

But according to KMPDU Rift Valley Secretary General Davji Atellah, the governor had no right to isolate the county in the strike, saying a number of issues had not been met. 

Atellah noted that there was no group life compensation cover and Work Injury Benefits Act in Nakuru and all other counties, and thus if a doctor dies at work they cannot be compensated. 

Unfair for medics

At the Nakuru Level Five Hospital, services were on a standstill with patients being turned away.

Margaret Wanjiru from Mau Narok said after enduring hours on the road, her journey to seek treatment hit a snug after she was told no services were being offered. 

Wanjiru said she hoped the strike would not proceed. She had an  appointment to see a doctor for interpretation of results after a breast cancer screening. 

“There are no services. I feel so saddened with the current state of affairs in the medical field, we pay taxes yet there are no services,” said Wanjiru. 

In Kakamega, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya appealed to the striking health workers to call-off the strike as the multi-agency committee tackles their grievances.

 He said it is unfair for the medics  to go on strike when the country is facing hard economic times occasioned by Covid-19.

 “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected our revenue streams and we have not met revenue collection targets as a country and hence there is no money to meet the demands being made by the health workers,” said Governor Oparanya.     

In Kisumu, services at all public hospitals remained paralysed following the ongoing health workers strike.

Patients from the lakeside town and its environs were forced to seek medical attention services from private hospitals while those who could not afford resorted to herbal medicine and purchasing drugs over the counter. 

A spot check by People Daily at the Kisumu County Hospital (KCH), Ahero sub-County Hospital, Lumumba Hospital and Orongo Dispensary found empty beds in wards, empty waiting benches and padlocks in nearly all the rooms. At the KCH, only the psychiatry ward and HIV clinic were partially in operation.

According to Medical Superintendent Dr Francis Oyugi, they were forced to suspend all services and send away patients because of the crisis occasioned by the health workers strike.

“The only open place right now is the HIV clinic and the psychiatry ward,” he said. On his part, Dr Bernard Owino, who is in-charge of Ahero Sub-County Hospital said the maternity wing is always opened at times with one or two nurses but the theatre is closed.

Owino said the facility, which on a normal working day accommodates between 100-200 out patients per day with more than 10 deliveries remained paralysed.

“The situation is unfortunate since people are suffering and with time they might start dying,” he said.

He added: “Ahero covers a large area especially in the maternity department but due to the strike, the women have been forced to deliver in their homes, which is kind of risky. I wish the government could hear our grievances out to enable us attend to the people.” In Murang’a, nurses and clinical officers joined their colleagues from other counties and downed tools to press for better terms.  The health workers have been offering services in the past two weeks despite a national strike, which was announced by their union officials.

Kenyan National Union of Nurses Murang’a branch chairman Kenneth Kihato castigated the county government for making empty promises on challenges the health workers faced.

Empty promises

Kihato observed that nurses and clinical officers who were employed under the Universal Health Care (UHC) have not received their salaries for the last seven months. He said the medics have been putting their lives at risk of contracting coronavirus and faulted the county government for not providing standard Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs).

“The facemasks we have been issued with are not of the required standard to be used by frontline workers in fight against Covid-19. It is a shame some of the masks can only protect one from dust,” he added.

Those employed on a permanent basis decried that they have not been paid for three months.

A spot check at Murang’a Level Five Hospital revealed scores of patients waiting for treatment at benches with no one ready to serve them. James Ndung’u said he arrived at the facility at 7.30am to receive treatment only to find no doctor to attend to him.

Health workers accused the county administration of employing nurses and clinical officers on contract,  saying it is a move to blackmail them. 

“Employing health workers on contract is a way to blackmail and pay them meager salaries. We will not allow this and we are not going back to work until our grievances are addressed sufficiently,” warned Kihato. - Stories by Roy Lumbe, Robert Ochoro, Wangari Njuguna, Viola Kosome and KNA

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