Nakhumicha to meet union over doctors’ strike impasse

MoH has scheduled the meeting today after doctors stood their ground

In Summary

• Doctors have vowed to disregard a court order that temporarily halted their strike

• The decision came after a council meeting unanimously agreed to continue the strike

KMPDU secretary general Dr Devji Attellah leads doctors in a peaceful demonstration over the delayed posting of medical interns in Nairobi on February 29
KMPDU secretary general Dr Devji Attellah leads doctors in a peaceful demonstration over the delayed posting of medical interns in Nairobi on February 29
Image: KMPDU/X

The Ministry of Health has scheduled a meeting with the doctors’ union on Monday in an effort to unlock the strike stalemate.

Health CS Susan Nakhumicha wrote to the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union.

She invited the medics for a consultative forum as the strike enters the fifth day today.

“The purpose of this letter is to note the ongoing conciliation proceedings,” Nakhumicha said.

“And in the meantime, to invite you and other officials of KMPDU for a consultative meeting scheduled for Monday at the Ministry of Health headquarters boardroom from 8am.”

The letter is addressed to KMPDU SG Davji Atellah and copied to Public Health PS Mary Muthoni.

The union had said that they would only call off the strike, which began on Wednesday midnight, after all their issues are fully addressed.

They disregarded a court order that temporarily halted it.

The decision came after the doctors' National Advisory Council 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 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 if the current trajectory if continued, it only serves to perpetuate the challenges within the health sector.

"It is clear that a well-intentioned individual cannot repeatedly reopen negotiations that lead to an endless cycle of meetings without progress," he said.

"It is time to approach this issue decisively and bring it to a definitive resolution."

He said the key to resolving the standoff lies in the implementation of their demands with precision and unwavering determination.

The court on Friday extended orders suspending the 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 continues, patients across the country are bearing the brunt of the strike.

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

However, the union said they had agreed to have a 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 says it is actively seeking a permanent solution to the issue.

Furthermore, there are concerns regarding recurrent delays in salary payments and failure to remit statutory deductions and to 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 in counties to permanent and pensionable terms.

However, the ministry has maintained the posting of interns requires Sh4.9 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 unsustainable.

“For now, that is unsustainable. As a ministry, we do not have resources to post them,” she said.

“And the law does not allow us as a ministry to post when we do not have the budget for it.”

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

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star