Kenya: Talks to End Health Crisis Hit Deadlock

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Talks to resolve the crisis at public hospitals hit a deadlock at Afya House on Tuesday.

The Health ministry wants doctors to accept a return-to-work formula while the medics are sticking to their 2013 collective bargaining agreement.

This comes even as eight Kenyans have died — three at the Coast General Provincial Hospital, three at the Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital and two at the Kabarnet County Referral Hospital — as the ongoing strike bites.

The negotiations were meant to start on Tuesday morning but failed to take off during that time, with representatives from the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) claiming that officials from the ministry did not show up.

By midday, the doctors, led by KMPDU secretary-general Ouma Oluga, who had joined his colleagues who were at the ministry offices at 8am, walked out of Afya House. He said the ministry was “playing a cat and mouse game and the union would have none of it”.

The meeting was eventually held at 2.30pm at Afya House. The government said it had, however, failed, for the second day, to convince the striking medics to get back to work.

In what could worsen the suffering of the sick in public hospitals, Health CS Cleopa Mailu last evening admitted the talks involving the government, nurses and doctors had failed to reach a solution, meaning that the strike would continue.

NATIONWIDE BOYCOTT

Meanwhile, 5,000 clinical officers on Tuesday joined doctors and nurses in the nationwide job boycott.

This has been due to failure on the part of the ministry and counties to harmonise salaries and promotions, and payment for diploma clinical officer interns.

The Kenya Union of Clinical Officers says the ministry is discriminatory in the way it is handling issues affecting its members.

Union secretary-general George Gibore said: “There are over 20 cadres in the health sector, and the ministry is selective in its discussions. We see favouritism towards doctors’ needs yet they are discussing issues that affect us as well.”

Mr Gibore said there are clinical officers who are paid even twice the salary of their peers in the same job group.
“These are issues we have been raising for nearly five years,” he said.

On Tuesday, more voices joined in calling on the national government and the President to address the health crisis.

The government, through its spokesman Eric Kiraithe, Tuesday said the “fundamental issues” raised by the two trade unions for nurses and doctors are valid and have spanned “several administrations and constitutional dispensations”.

CAUSING INCURABLE PAIN

“The strike is causing incalculable pain and grief across the country,” said Mr Kiraithe.

At the same time, the Kenya Cancer Association urged the government to hastily engage in dialogue with the doctors.

The organisation’s executive director Deborah Modi raised concern that many cancer patients who go for chemotherapy sessions would not be able to get the much-needed treatment if the strike is not called off.

Kenya Healthcare Federation chairman Amit Thakker apportioned blame on the leadership of the ministry for the “unfortunate incident that kept repeating itself in Kenya”.

Dr Thakker said: “Strikes do not happen overnight. There were signs but the ministry ignored them and has now denied Kenyans a chance to get medical care.”

©Alleastafrica and Daily Nation

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