STAND OFF

Court orders will not stop us, doctors commence strike amid sack threats

The doctors say they are not ready to back down till their demands are met.

In Summary

• Union officials while addressing members of the press said despite the warning by the government, they are not ready to back down till their demands are met.

• Speaking in Kisii, Kenya Medical Pharmacists and Dentists Union officials termed the flurry of sacking threats by Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe as mere jokes.

Doctors on Monday officially began their nationwide strike despite warning that they would be sacked. https://bit.ly/2WwepYq

Doctors on Monday officially began their nationwide strike despite warning that they would be sacked.

Union officials while addressing members of the press said despite the warning by the government, they are not ready to back down till their demands are met.

Speaking in Kisii, Kenya Medical Pharmacists and Dentists Union officials termed the flurry of sacking threats by Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe as mere jokes.

Chibanzi Mwachonda said doctors would rather stay home poor rather than be driven to work in environments where they are not guaranteed of their safety.

“Nobody is going to force us to undertake a suicide mission, no amount of threats is going to work,” said Mwachonda .

Mwachonda was in Kisii in solidarity with other doctors and union officials to attend the burial of their colleague Dr. Stephene Mogusu who succumbed to the current Coronavirus disease while working in Machakos.

Last week Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe sounded a warning to striking health workers to resume work or face the sack.

Kagwe said the courts had stopped the strike to allow room for negotiations noting that the government has continually engaged health workers’ unions over the issues raised.

Kagwe said as amicable solutions to the issues are sought, the health workers need to go back to work especially as Kenyans indulge in the festivities.

"I can confirm that my Ministry and that of Labour and Social Protection continues to engage with union officials to find an amicable solution to the issues that concern their members. Kenyans can now enjoy their holidays without anxiety and fear of seeking unavailable services in our public facilities as it should be," he said.

Some of the issues they have raised, he said, are legitimate and that the government has put in place measures to ensure they are resolved.

He cited the issue of Personal Protective Equipment that health workers demanded saying they have been provided to all private and public health care facilities.

“And that is why we are asking all striking health workers to go back to their work stations all the country and avoid being a statistic of the people who will be looking for jobs come January,” Kagwe said.

But Mwachonda said already 33 doctors have since died of the disease since it struck the first case was reported in March.

He said doctors have legitimate concerns that need to be addressed before any such threats are issued.

No doctor, he said, is ready to resume work unless the government provided a comprehensive group life insurance cover for them and also give them personal protective gear.

The union boss said currently the insurance cover is dished out in a discriminatory manner with some cadres being left out.

“Doctors in Counties and in Universities are not benefiting from it, if we continue to deal with doctors with so careless abandon then we are driving the country down the drain,” he said.

Mwachonda said it is incumbent upon the government to protect the lives of doctors if it insists on wanting to deploy them to fight the disease.

“We have drawn the line, this is about protecting the lives of doctors, if their lives are not protected then we will be left to fight for our lives,” he said.

The union officials said the government should harmonize the provision of health care services in the country as long term solution to the perennial problems facing the sector.

Mwachonda rubbished orders from the court saying said no amount of court orders are going to persuade them from calling off the strike.

He said the issue at hand is a life and death issue and not about the rights of patients alone.

KMPDU officials during a press conference
KMPDU officials during a press conference
Image: MAGATI OBEBO

‘’Court orders will not stop doctors from dying, or reduce infections among doctors, it is our right to withdraw services until the issues we have tabled on the table are attended to. There is no politics in this, it is our right,” Mwachonda said.

The union said there were some political vultures misadvising the president on the issue of health.

“We want the president to know that we are doing this because we want to save our own lives not because of any politics at all,” said Mwachonda.

He said doctors had been working on very dangerous grounds and will only be away until the government finds solutions to their plight.

He however said as union officials they are still willing to have constructive discussions with those in authority so as to end the stalemate.

“But we would only be engaging those who make decisions, not junior officials who come to make indecent proposals to buy time and people suffer,” he said.

Nyanza region union chair Kevin Osuri told the health minister to be serious and stop public relations antics.

He said the of Mogusu has jolted them to sad realities of the grave dangers facing the health care providers in the country.

“I sent a very strong warning to Kagwe that this is not a PR show, this is something about life, we rather stay home and die there than sending us to die in hospitals where we are not protected,” Osuri said.