Full blown crisis as doctors join nurses in national strike

Monday, December 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Kenya National Union of Nurses deputy secretary Maurice Opetu addresses the media in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/BERNARD ORWONGO

Health services will be paralysed in the country after doctors joined nurses and clinical officers in a countrywide strike after a two-week extension of a notice to down tools expired last night.

On December 10 it appeared the crisis would be solved when several resolutions were hammered during a joint session of the health committees of the Senate and National Assembly – that could have seen demands by health workers in the country met – but yesterday it became clear that none of those demands by the doctors had been met.

Cherangany MP Joshua Kuttuny and Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina who co-chaired the session at Parliament Buildings pleaded with the health workers not to abandon the sick at their hour of need.

Kuttuny told the doctors to mark yesterday’s negotiations as part of the solution to their plight, and do away with the prevailing notice to strike since there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’

“It is an issue of give-and-take. The National Treasury has told us that it is going to remit the Sh520 million in seven days, and the MOH has confirmed that the transfer of this amount will be done in two days to the NHIF upon receipt of the money from Treasury around December 19,” Kuttuny said.

The doctors then agreed to take up duties in public hospitals as the other healthcare employees stayed away.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU) Secretary General Dr. Chibanzi Mwachonda could not however commit whether the doctors will scrap the strike notice. He only assured the stakeholders in the negotiations that the union will be available for further dialogue.

“We are open to dialogue but if the conditions we set wouldn’t have been addressed, all doctors in the country including those teaching in the universities will stay at home,” Mwachonda told People Daily in subsequent interviews.

However, the new crisis comes at critical time – the festive season - when Covid-19 infections are also expected to rise.

The union, however, cited unresolved issues despite engagements for close to eight months.

“The KMPDU wishes to inform members of the Kenyan public that doctors will withdraw their labour in accordance with article 41 of Kenyan Constitution due to unresolved issues after eight months of engagement between KMPDU and the Government of Kenya and lapse of 21 days strike notice issued on November 16 and suspended additional 14 days,” reads the notice on its Twitter page.

The cadres of doctors that will be on strike include medical officers interns, pharmacists interns, dental officer interns, medical officers, pharmacists, dentists, medical specialists and all medical superintendents.

Last month, KMPDU issued a 21-day strike notice over escalating Covid-19 infections and deaths of health workers.

The doctors demanded standard and adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to all healthcare workers from the government.

“We will be available for any engagement within those three weeks’ failure to which we will have no choice but to rally our members for our nationwide strike. It is our lives first. It will not be business as usual. Doctors’ lives matter,” said Mwachonda.

Already, more than 30 health workers have succumbed to the disease since the first case was confirmed in the country in March.

Among the doctors who have succumbed to Covid-19 include Dr Doreen Lugaliki, Dr Ndambuki Mboloi, Dr Daniel Alushula, Dr Vladimir Schuckin, Dr Hudson Inyangala, and Dr Emarah Ashraf.

Others include Dr Robert Ayisi, Dr Hudson Alumera, Dr Faith Mbuba and Dr Jackline Njoroge with the most recent being 28-year-old Stephen Mogusu.

On Saturday, Health Cabinet Secretary  Mutahi Kagwe is understood to have directed county governments to advertise positions for absent health workers. Mutahi urged over 8,000 unemployed nurses to apply for the vacancies once counties advertise the positions.

Wale ambao wako nje ambao wanataka kazi na wanaaka uendelea na kazi wakati huu ndio sasa walete barua zao waajiriwe kazi na hiyo maneno iishie hapo. Lakini sana sana tungependa kuendelea na wale ambao tuko nao tussikizane vizuri tuendelee na kazi. Hiyo ndio ile Krismasi ingekuwa mzuri. Hatutaki mtu kusema mwaka uliopita alikuwa na kazi and then next year you are a statistic for jobless people,” he said.

The CS spoke to journalists during the burial of former Cabinet Minister Joe Nyagah in Mbeere, Embu county.

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