Embrace dialogue to spare patients agony

Thursday, October 1st, 2020 00:00 |
Kenyatta National Hospital. Photo/Courtesy

The decision by medics at the Kenyatta National Hospital to call off their strike and go back to work as directed by the High Court was wise. 

We understand the workers resorted to industrial action due to a dispute with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) which had failed to implement a 2012 pay review. 

The referral hospital was re-categorised, prompting a review of salaries but it was not effected on some cadres of staff. 

Patients were yesterday also turned away at the Coast Provincial General Hospital because of another dispute with authorities over delayed salaries, remittance of statutory deductions, lack of medical insurance cover and promotions. 

Likewise, patients at Embu Teaching and Referral Hospital were left on their own after 2,400 health workers boycotted duties. 

The net effect of industrial action by health workers is the suffering of patients and loss of lives that could be prevented.

While we understand the grievances, we hold the view that industrial action, particularly by medics, should come as a last resort.  

By virtue of their work, medics are entrusted with the care of individuals at their most vulnerable point.

Indeed, doctors take the Hippocratic Oath to protect lives and treat the ill to the best of their ability. 

Whichever grievances they may have, the decision by striking medics to abandon desperate patients defeats the spirit of the oath. 

We emphasise the need for dialogue, arbitration or even court action in resolution of disputes in the health sector in order to prevent costly and unfortunate confrontations with hospital authorities. 

The medics deserve reminding that the country is still fighting a pandemic that has claimed hundreds of lives and strained the sector.

Indeed, medics have been hailed — and deservedly so —  for playing an invaluable frontline role in the Covid-19 battle.

That is why we consider the strike by doctors not only ill-timed and intemperate, but also take great exception with the reckless and intransigent manner in which hospital administrators and county governments have been handling workers’ disputes. 

Cases abound where union leaders have been denied audience by hospital managers and governors.

We urge the SRC, the medics and hospital administrators to initiate dialogue to resolve any outstanding conflicts.

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