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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Doctors need to get off their high horse

KMPDU Secretary-General Ouma Oluga (C), Daisy Korir (R) and Titus Ondoro join union members at Uhuru Park after they were released from prison on February 15, 2017. The Union agreed to carry on with talks with the government which is aimed at ending the two-month doctors' job boycott./Jack Owuor
KMPDU Secretary-General Ouma Oluga (C), Daisy Korir (R) and Titus Ondoro join union members at Uhuru Park after they were released from prison on February 15, 2017. The Union agreed to carry on with talks with the government which is aimed at ending the two-month doctors' job boycott./Jack Owuor

Ihad not planned to comment on the doctors’ strike. However, after the attempt by the opposition to ride on the KMPDU strike for political relevance, I think it is important to shed light on a few facts that reveal how the issue is a problem the doctors created for themselves.

First, let us look at the content of the fight.

One, for some reason the 2013 CBA was actually never legalised (filed in court). This means, just as happens with any other agreement or contract not filed in a court of law, it is not enforceable.

Two, in 2015 KMPDU went to court seeking to compel the government to implement the CBA. Of course this is not possible in light of the fact that the CBA is essentially not recognised by the courts.

Three, when it became clear that the CBA could not be implemented, the doctors called a strike. The CoG took them to court. Some members of the CoG threatened to fire the doctors in their counties, even going to the extent of advertising for their jobs.

Four, to avert what was becoming a national crisis, the national government stepped in and the President met the KMPDU leadership and made an offer to get them back to work, which included a 40 per cent increase. KMPDU refused.

Second, let us look at the context of this fight, especially in light of the way the opposition is trying to muddy up the issues.

One, Kenyans decided to devolve healthcare to the county governments under the 2010 constitution. This makes the ongoing issue a fight between doctors and the Council of Governors; with the national government as an onlooker.

In fact, it is actually the CoG that took the KMPDU to court nearly three months ago. Two, the CoG has been engaging doctors through the Health Committee, whose chairman is Governor Jack Ranguma. Ranguma is an opposition governor.

In fact, out of the 47 governors, the opposition has the majority — 24. This means if they wanted to stop the fight against the doctors, the opposition can pass a resolution to that effect unilaterally, immediately. Three, the collective bargaining agreement being contested was actually discussed under the old Constitution, where healthcare was a national function. Ironically, the minister in charge, Anyang’ Nyong’o, is now in the opposition.

Third, let us look at the reality of the doctors’ predicament.

One, the CBA as currently constructed cannot be implemented. This is a fact that smart people – and doctors are smart people – know as a fact. Two, the doctors have lost the war of public opinion. Public goodwill is no longer on their side. This has come from a feeling that they are negotiating for money, which is essentially all that it looks like they are doing to the majority of Kenyans - using the lives of poor Kenyans (rich Kenyans are still accessing health services).

Three, doctors have lost sight of what this was all about. As a fraternity, they are circling the wagons against whoever does not agree with them, including deregistering CS Cleopa Mailu and PS Nicholas Muraguri, two doctors only doing their job as senior government officials. It now seems like a battle of egos — theirs and the government’s (which government – county or national – I can no longer tell).

The way forward: The KMPDU needs to accept the 2013 CBA is null and void, get down from their high horse and start negotiating afresh; and with the right party (the CoG).

Meanwhile, special thanks to clinical officers and nurses for keeping hospitals running. Kenyans have learnt something about how healthcare is actually delivered.


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