EMOTIONAL SESSION

MPs weep as doctors narrate their plight in Covid war

Medics lament lack of insurance cover, inadequate PPE and neglect by the government.

In Summary

•Mwachonda said the majority of doctors are not under any insurance cover and are not paid extraneous, risk and other allowances.

•The medics lamented lack of a clear framework for workman injury benefits (compensation) and lack of coordinated health human resource management.

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union secretary general Chibanzi Mwachonda when he appeared before the Health committee on November 18, 2020
Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union secretary general Chibanzi Mwachonda when he appeared before the Health committee on November 18, 2020
Image: EZEKIEL AMINGA

Three MPs cried as doctors narrated how they are mistreated and neglected by the national and county governments even as they put their lives on the line fighting Covid-19.

In an emotional session on Wednesday, James Nyikal (Seme), Joyce Emanikor (Turkana Woman Representative) and Sarah Korere (Laikipia North) broke down on camera during a meeting of the National Assembly’s Health committee with doctors’ union officials.

The committee met the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union officials to understand the challenges they are experiencing as they endeavour to save lives.

The union has already issued a three-week strike notice to the government, a move that could see many Kenyans lose their lives in the wake of the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.

“I wish we were having this meeting in State House with the President chairing. And all those whom he listens to can make their contribution…. I don’t like this,” Nyikal said as he broke down.

The MP, a doctor by profession, added, “You can’t do that to your doctors and health workers. It is not fair. …. You cannot handle health like business.”

Committee vice chairman Joshua Kutuny (Cherang’any), who chaired the session, had tough time trying to calm down members’ emotions.

“Take it easy. We hear you Mheshimiwa. .. We hear you …..”  Kutuny said.

KMPDU secretary general Chibanzi Mwachonda in the company of national chairman Samuel Oroko and Nairobi branch secretary Thuranira Kaugiria made a passionate presentation to the committee, narrating how doctors are being mistreated and neglected by the government.

Mwachonda said the majority are not under any insurance cover by the government and they are not paid extraneous, risk and other allowances.

This is despite the medics risking their lives as they struggled to save the lives of Kenyans battling Covid-19.

“Only 20 out of the 47 counties cover health care workers under the NHIF comprehensive cover,” Mwachonda said.

He added, “Should health care workers get sick, they would not be able to afford the care they are currently providing."

Of those that have enrolled their medics with NHIF, some are not remitting statutory deductions to the health insurer.

According to Mwachonda, Marsabit, Tharaka Nithi, Kitui, Makueni, Nyandarua, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo and Bomet do not have any arrangement with NHIF in terms of coverage of health workers.

In addition, the doctors do not have any form of physical support for frontline health workers. They are not properly equipped with necessary kits to protect themselves from the contagion.

The medics lamented the lack of a clear framework for workman injury benefits (compensation) and lack of coordinated health human resource management.

According to the Ministry of Health, 2,352 health workers have contracted Covid-19 since the virus hit the country in March. Thirty, among them 10 doctors, have succumbed to the virus.

“We have cried a lot. We have died. We have really suffered. We have been abused by this government. Are we children of a lesser god? On December 7, we will stay home. We are safer there,” Thuranira said.

NHIF chief executive officer Peter Kamunyo, who separately appeared before the panel, said 8,184 health workers are enrolled with NHIF with 400 others already approved by the board for enrolment.

Moved by the presentation, Kutuny ordered a meeting of the Council of Governors, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, PS Susan Mochache, KMPDU officials, NHIF boss and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission on Wednesday next week.

Also summoned to the meeting are the vice chancellors of the University of Nairobi, Moi University and Kenyatta University.

Kutuny questioned why the government has not utilised Sh520 million meant to cover frontline health workers, Sh4.2 billion risk allowance and Sh500 million set aside for psychological support.

Nyikal said the problems bedevilling health workers are systemic and require political good will to resolve.

“Everybody is saying that you have to be patriotic, you must be human. Who said patriotism is suicide?” he said.

Edited by Henry Makori