Alarm after seven medics take their lives in 2 years
Seven doctors committed suicide in the last two years, the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentist’s Union (KMPDU) said yesterday while attributing the deaths to depression.
KPMDU Secretary-General, Dr Davji Atellah linked the source of dejection to unemployment, salaries and suffocation of leave days, subjecting the healthcare practitioners to long working hours.
The latest medic to succumb to suicide was Dr Muoki Fred Wambua in Kangundo, Machakos county last Friday after struggling for months to secure employment.
Consequently, doctors have now issued a fresh strike notice to the government, further indicating a recent truce on the unimplemented Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Ministry of Health is likely to be null and void.
“Failure to implement our demands, we shall mobilise our members across the nation to start the nationwide strike that we suspended for 60 days ending on March 5,” the union leadership stated yesterday in Nairobi. Muoki is said to have taken his life on January 27 in Kangundo over what in a suicide note to a kin, he alleged were frustrations due to unemployment.
While qualifying this revelation, Dr Attellah said the suicide was caused by depression with the note he left indicating he had hit dead end as he couldn’t bear to see his family suffer despite him having graduated.
“In a suicide note to his sister, Dr Muoki described his desperation not being able to find employment and the sorrow of watching his poor family struggle months after completing his internship at Kagundo Level Four hospital,” the KMPDU boss revealed.
He said any serious government should account for every resource used including the cost of training a medical doctor which is exorbitant - ranging between Sh4 to Sh5 million.
In Kenya, he said it takes at least 7 years to train as a medical doctor, including 1 year of compulsory internship.
“Therefore, it’s sad that a nation would spend so much on training its greatest brains in one of the noblest professions and fail to utilize them to save the lives of Kenyans who continue to die from treatable illnesses,” Dr Atellah noted.
Many of the doctors who graduate are among the brightest minds in the nation, he said, noting that it defeats logic why this cannot be accounted for yet currently there are more than nine universities in Kenya offering medical training.
“Daktari represents the 100s of our bright brothers and sisters who after toiling for years training to be medics have found themselves either unemployed, under employed or working under precarious contracts that don’t offer them similar benefits as their older colleagues,” he pointed out.
The few who are lucky to get jobs, Dr Atellah noted, narrate horror stories of having to pay bribes as high as Sh400, 000 or even give in to sexual demands from men old enough to be their fathers.
“What a shame!” he exclaimed, explaining that the medics work long hours, with no leave days, medical cover, study leaves and inferior pay with illegal clauses in their contracts that bar them from joining the union nor participating in its activities.
“When these inhuman contracts run out, they don’t get renewed and neither do they get their gratuities paid,” he said further.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country was engulfed by nationwide grief when Dr Stephen Mogusu, , succumbed to the disease which he is said to have contracted at a Covid-19 isolation centre. He had worked for five months without a salary or even a medical cover according to KMPDU. The doctors once again listed the demands they want the government to implement.
“KMPDU therefore wishes to demand the following; the government of Kenya to put in place measures to have annual recruitment of doctors just like it’s done for the military, police officers and teachers until we achieve the World Health Organisation recommended doctor to patient ratio of 1:1000,” the doctors said.
Currently Kenya’s doctor-patient ratio stands at 1:17000, which the Union termed as unacceptable.
They are also calling for a centralised and standardised management of human resources for healthcare.
“If we did it for teachers and police, we must do it for doctors too. This will help reduce the many industrial actions that are occasioned by incompetence by the county governments,” said Dr Atellah.
The doctors are going for nothing short of the full Implementation of the 2017 CBA.