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Medics to down tools after State snubs mediation

By George Kebaso
Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
KMPDU secretary general Mwachonda Chibanzi when he appeared before National Assembly Health committee, yesterday. Photo/PD SAMUEL KARIUKI
In summary

George Kebaso @Morarak

The government has only four days to avert a national healthcare strike.

Yesterday, Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU), the doctors’ trade union, maintained that the strike is on if their demands are not met once their 21-day notice lapses on Sunday night.

Their threat comes despite indicating availability of dialogue, but basically on condition that all the 11 irreducible minimums are addressed.

KMPDU said room for calling off the strike is shrinking, but reminded the government there are four more days to avert the looming crisis.

Dr Chibanzi Mwachonda, the union secretary general, said after a four-hour meeting with the National Assembly’s Committee on Health, Kenyatta and Moi universities the only option left is to down tools.

“Come Monday, 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,” he told journalists.

This means starting next week; the Kenyan sick people including those who test positive for Covid-19 will be on their own.

“As we speak, doctors do not have sufficient Personal Protective Equipment; besides lacking funds to purchase what is needed by their healthcare workers, counties too do not have adequate PPEs,” Mwachonda said.

He noted that the doctors were currently financing all their needs including purchasing PPEs.

Further, Mwachonda said medics who have contracted Covid-19 had been forced to pay out of pocket for their own treatment.

“We have colleagues who have contracted Covid-19; they have had to foot the bills, despite the fact that they contracted the virus while on duty... If one doctor dies today, they don’t qualify for compensation,” he noted.

Mwachonda, however, said that even as the decision to go on strike is already done, the KMPDU advisory council will give the final verdict.

The union officials and the MPs were perturbed that government officials snubbed yesterday’s third session seeking to address the frosty relationship between it and healthcare workers.

Last week, the committee wrote to the National Treasury, Health and Education ministries including the Council of Governors (CoG), and the Salaries Remuneration Commission (SRC) inviting them to appear before it yesterday.

The invite was also extended to the county governments of Kirinyaga and Laikipia that have dismissed their doctors unprocedurally.

However, those invited did not show up, with only Kirinyaga county sending the CEC for Health Gladys Kimingi, whose presentation was rejected on the grounds of lacking relevance.

This led to the committee members adjourning the session to next Thursday demanding those invited appear in person.

Cherangany MP Joshua Kuttuny, who was sitting in for Committee Chair Sabina Chege, expressed disappointment that the invited government officials decided not to honour the request in spite of an earlier commitment.

“The executives are derailing efforts to stop the impending strike. We have observed that the healthcare unions are ready for dialogue, but commitment from the main stakeholders is nil.

We want to remind the government that if this strike takes place, it is Kenyans who will suffer, and the Executive will be liable for the consequences involved,” Kuttuny said.

If the stakeholders fail to attend next Thursday’s meeting a legal process will be instituted against them.