Doctors’ strike hits Kenyan government-run hospitalsThu, 21 Mar 2024 17:34:27 GMT

A nationwide doctors’ strike in Kenya on Thursday paralysed health services at some government-run hospitals which were already suffering due to a lack of medicines and equipment.The medics are taking the action, now in its second week, to demand an increase in pay and better working conditions, their union said. Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), an umbrella body with over 7,000 members, said the strike would continue until their demands are accepted.”The government has not shown any interest in sorting out the mess,” KMPDU deputy secretary general Dennis Miskellah told AFP.  “As a union, we shall not go back to work until our demands are met.”The affected hospitals are currently staffed by nurses and clinical officers who are limited in the services they can offer. A court order issued last week suspended the strike and urged negotiations but the union vowed to soldier on with the industrial action, which began on March 13.”It is clear that a well-intentioned individual cannot repeatedly reopen negotiations that lead to an endless cycle of meetings without progress,” KMPDU said in a statement on Saturday, terming the court decision “unjust”.At the centre of the row is a move by the government to slash the salaries of medical interns and delay employing them on permanent and pensionable terms.The doctors have planned a peaceful demonstration on Friday and a march to the health ministry’s headquarters, parliament, treasury building and to the county governors’ offices.- ‘Cannot have a gap’ -The government has threatened to recruit unemployed doctors to fill in for those on strike. “We will not allow a crisis to happen,” Health Minister Susan Nakhumicha told the KTN broadcaster on Wednesday, adding that she had instructed two major referral hospitals to hire locums to address the crisis.”We cannot have a gap, we have patients in intensive care units, we have patients in critical care, we have babies in the neonatal units.”But the union’s secretary general Davji Atellah dismissed Nakhumicha’s plan, citing Kenya’s chronic shortage of doctors.”If we are out because of the poor terms that the doctors are engaged in, which doctors then would be in their senses to take those jobs,” Atellah told AFP.”The longer they give the threats, the longer the strike.” In 2017, Kenyan doctors staged a 100-day crippling nationwide strike that left public hospitals shut and patients unable to access basic medical care.Dozens of patients died from a lack of medical care during the walkout, which ended after a deal was agreed.But doctors have accused the government of reneging on some agreements, leading to the current strike.