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Monday, June 26, 2017

Mailu throws in the towel as last round of talks with doctors collapse

Striking doctors pray for officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union, ahead of a possible jail term over their prolonged strike, at Railways Club in Nairobi, January 24, 2016. /RHODA ODHIAMBO
Striking doctors pray for officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union, ahead of a possible jail term over their prolonged strike, at Railways Club in Nairobi, January 24, 2016. /RHODA ODHIAMBO

Talks between doctors and the government hit a snag on Tuesday after the Health Ministry accused the medics of not being ready to negotiate in good faith.

Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu said that they had tried their best to talk with the doctors in vain even as the work boycott entered its 52nd day.

He said that the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union officials failed to commit to an agreed position despite the struggle to reach consensus.

"When a union agrees on a position and changes it the next minute, it becomes very hard for us to negotiate," Mailu said.

"That is what we have been subjected to as a ministry and a government for the last 52 days," a visibly frustrated Mailu told the media.

He maintained that the doctors were frustrating their efforts to come up with an amicable solution to the stalemate adding that it was contrary to what the party portrays to Kenyans.

"Mine is to let Kenyans know that those discussions have come to no conclusion as it is not their (KMPDU) wish to see the suffering stop," the CS said.

He said they will continue to engage with county governments to improve the services offered at faith-based hospitals as well as private clinics.

"We want to ensure Kenyans continue to receive services. We will meet with county health executives on Friday to chart the way forward," Mailu said.

It is not clear if they will meet union officials on the said date as the lot risks being jailed on Thursday, should they not strike a deal with the government.

"We are still open to negotiate with them even if they come tomorrow," the CS said.

Ahead of the Thursday 8am deadline, KMPDU officials went on their knees in prayer during a meeting at Railways Club, Nairobi.

They reiterated that they would rather go to jail than give up the fight for better healthcare.

In a ruling on Thursday, January 12, judge Hellen Wasilwa asked the doctors to end the strike in two weeks, during which she said negotiations should be taking place.

She said the medic's other option would be to spend a month in jail.

KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga however refuted claims by the CS that they do not want to negotiate.

He said that the government had resorted to threats during the talks.

"The reason why we cannot come to a consensus is because the leadership of the Ministry has resolved to issuing threats instead of negotiating with us," Oluga said.

"We want to tell them we will not bow down to pressure and we are ready to go to jail," he said.

Read: Court orders doctors' officials to call off strike or face one month jail

Also read: Striking doctors pray for union officials ahead of possible jail term


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