Hundreds of Kenya doctors protest in support of strikeTue, 09 Apr 2024 13:52:38 GMT

Hundreds of hospital doctors joined a demonstration in the streets of the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday as a nationwide strike by medics neared its fourth week.About a dozen riot police in pickup trucks monitored the protest, which was not authorised by the authorities.Members of the 7,000-strong Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) have been on strike since March 13 to demand better pay and working conditions, disrupting health care at the country’s 57 public hospitals.Wearing white lab coats and blowing horns and whistles, the doctors chanted “solidarity forever” as they marched to the health ministry, where they blocked the entrance gates.”We are more than willing to go back to the hospitals but the effort being put (in) by the government is not enough to end the human suffering,” KMPDU deputy secretary general Dennis Miskellah said.Miskellah told AFP they will continue to defy the protest ban as the “constitution gives us a right to picket, demonstrate and participate in a strike”.”We do not need anybody to give us permission,” he said, threatening to shut all hospitals if any doctor was harmed in the strike.”When the government… addresses the issues we had in the strike notice, we will go back to work.”The procession was mostly peaceful but a group of men threw stones at the doctors, destroying a car parked near the health ministry. The doctors then marched to parliament to present a petition highlighting their grievances. “I want to believe we are applying pressure on the government,” 24-year-old student medic Wanuri Kahiu told AFP, adding that she hoped for an agreement.The union last week rejected an offer by the government that included paying arrears under a 2017 collective bargaining agreement, and hiring trainee doctors on permanent contracts.- ‘Must live within our means’ -In March, a labour court had ordered the union to suspend the strike and last week it set a 14-day deadline for the completion of negotiations to end the stalemate.Kenyan President William Ruto, who has embarked on cost-cutting measures since taking office in 2022, on Sunday ruled out any further concessions.”We cannot continue to spend the money we do not have,” he said.”I am telling our friends the doctors that… we value the service they give to our nation but we must live within our means.”Poor salaries and working conditions have led to an exodus of Kenyan medics to other African countries and further afield.In 2017, doctors staged a 100-day nationwide strike that left public hospitals shut.Dozens of patients died from a lack of treatment during the walkout, which ended after a collective bargaining agreement was reached.But doctors have accused the government of reneging on some parts of the deal, leading to the current strike.