We won't succumb to fear, doctors say as strike enters fourth day

Doctors maintained they will only call off the strike after their key demands are fully addressed

In Summary

•The council unanimously voted to defy the court order issued on Wednesday terming it unjust

•Health CS Susan Nakhumicha last week termed the demands by the doctors as unsustainable

Doctors in Turkana County holding protests on Friday, March 15, 2024.
Doctors in Turkana County holding protests on Friday, March 15, 2024.

Doctors have vowed to continue with their nationwide strike  initiated on Thursday, disregarding a court order that temporarily halted it.

The decision came after the doctors' National Advisory Council (NAC) convened on Friday and unanimously agreed to continue the strike, denouncing the court order issued on Wednesday as unfair.

The Kenya National Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union national chairman Abi Mwachi said the decision was made in an effort to ensure issues ailing the health sector are addressed once and for all.

"We shall not obey the court orders as they will just prolong the injustices in the Healthcare sector," Mwanci said.

The Employment and Labour Relations Court on Wednesday issued an order stopping the strike by the doctors hours before the lapse of the seven-day notice the union had issued.

In a statement, doctors maintained they would only call off the strike after their key demands were fully addressed.

Mwachi said the decision to go on with the strike aims to demonstrate a commitment by doctors to act with courage rather than succumb to fear.

He said the current trajectory if continued, only serves to perpetuate the challenges within our sector.

"It is clear that a well intentioned individual cannot repeatedly reopen negotiations that lead to endless cycle of meetings without progress. It is time to approach this issue decisively and bring it to a definitive resolution," he said.

Mwachi added: "The key to resolving this standoff lies in the implementation of our demands with precision and unwavering determination."

Justice Byram Ongaya issued the orders in response to a certificate of urgency filed by James Kounah Advocate and supported by an affidavit from Jane Akunda, both dated March 12, 2024.

The orders, according to Justice Ongaya, will create a favourable environment for negotiations and agreement on essential services to continue during a potential strike.

The court on Friday extended orders suspending doctors' strike to allow for negotiations and agreement on essential services that should continue in the event of a strike.

As the push and pull between the Ministry of Health, counties and doctors continue, patients across the country have continued to bear the brunt of the strike.

Some who had turned up to seek medical services in various hospitals were left stranded due to lack of doctors to attend to them

However, the union said they had agreed to have few medics providing services in critical areas such as the Intensive Care Unit.

"Even before the court directive, we had already told a few of our members to hold in the casualty and ICU to ensure patients do not suffer," Deputy SG Dennis Miskellah said.

One persistent issue is the continual delay in posting and payment of interns, a problem that has persisted for an extended period.

The ministry is actively seeking a permanent solution to this issue. Furthermore, there are concerns regarding recurrent delays in salary payments, failure to remit statutory deductions, and address loan repayments promptly.

Another pressing matter is the lack of comprehensive medical insurance coverage for union members, both at county and national government levels.

Additionally, the union advocates for the conversion of temporary contracts for doctors within counties to permanent and pensionable terms.

However, the ministry has maintained the posting of interns requires Sh4 billion, which it does not have until the funds are released by the Treasury.

Health CS Susan Nakhumicha last week termed the demands by the doctors as unsustainable.

“For now that is unsustainable, as a ministry we do not have resources to post them and the law does not allow us as a ministry to post when we do not have the budget for it,” Nakhumicha said.

She however said she was in close contact with the Treasury to ensure the funds required are released.

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