Society / Health & Science
Saturday, 11 Feb 2017 17:34 EATpwanjiru@kenyafreepress.com
As the national doctors’ strike clocks 69 days, panic and despair has become the order of the day as patients who cannot afford treatment at private hospitals go unattended, and the blame squarely falls on the government. The government has used all tricks to coerce doctors to resume work by withholding salaries, issuing sacking letters and threatening to import foreign doctors from countries such as Cuba and India.
But members of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU) have stood their ground that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed in June 2013 be implemented. The strike has deprived many Kenyans the inalienable right to quality healthcare, exposing many to extreme physical injuries and financial strain.
In fact, the government’s wrong approach to end the strike has even strengthened the Union representatives' resolve. Despite Union leaders being threatened with jail sentences for contempt of court, these coercive machinations have not worked. The doctors’ resolve has also been strengthened by the fact that the government has refused to make any concessions, sticking to the same deal the doctors’ union turned down in the first week of the strike.
It all began on 5th December last year when the doctors in the Kenya public facilities, went on strike. The strike set off one of the messiest industrial disputes by health workers in the country. Before they went on strike, the doctors had spelt out their demands clearly whereby they wanted their collective bargaining agreement they signed in June 2013 to be implemented.
This harsh situations are intended to force doctors back to work, instead the government has strengthened its resolve and after great sacrifice they feel there’s nothing much to lose. All that the doctors want is the implementing of the 2013 collective bargaining agreement, which seems to have been turned down by the government.
Besides the extra allowance offered by the government, the doctors feel not contented due to the lack of increasing the basic salary. They say that the habit of using technicalities to frustrate the negotiations also needs to stop. And all stakeholders should be ready to come up with solutions rather than erecting roadblocks along the roads to make deals.
The government by failing to end the strike has disregarded the needs of the majority of Kenyans who cannot afford private healthcare. Millions of Kenyans have been unable to access care in public hospitals. The most annoying thing is that many patients have died and suffered disability because they do not access to any care. On top of all this, many people have been forced to seek health care services from private hospitals making it difficult for financial charges.
The government should fully satisfy the doctors’ demands and ensure that they do not threaten them by telling them that they will import other doctors from other countries, which sounds indifferent to our national interests. The government also needs to consider the medicine students in the universities because, the strike has led to delays in the training schedules across the country, since they have been forced to stop the teaching because it is difficult to teach medicine without patients in hospital.
If the government reach out to the obligations of the doctors there will be more doctors in public service and they will be better equipped, trained and motivated. Kenya also needs to empower the public hospitals to take advantage of the funds in order to grow and improve their services.