The Treasury is willing to set aside up to Sh4 billion to settle the labour dispute with striking health workers, an allocation that is less than half what is needed to meet the doctors’ demand of a 300 per cent salary increase.
Treasury secretary Henry Rotich told the parliamentary Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) that the government will need to set aside between Sh1 billion and Sh4 billion for the medical staff pay demands.
The healthcare workers went on strike on December 5 to push for the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed in July 2013 which awarded them a 300 per cent pay hike but is yet to be effected.
“The CS (Cabinet Secretary), however, noted that there are new demands arising from the negotiations that are ongoing between the government and medics, which is expected to cost about Sh1 to Sh4 billion,” said a brief from the BAC.
This is short of the Sh8 billion that is required to meet the health workers’ demands. The doctors on Tuesday accused the government of abandoning talks to resolve the ongoing strike which has caused loss of tens of lives as it entered its fourth week.
The government is reportedly making arrangements with expatriate medics from Cuba and India to help address the paralysis occasioned by the nationwide strike, a position refuted by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) — the medical workers’ union.
“We have spoken to the doctors’ unions in those two countries and they confirmed nothing of the sort,” KMPDU secretary-general Ouma Oluga told the Business Daily.
Besides the 300 per cent pay hike, the CBA was meant to review doctors’ working conditions and address under-staffing of medical professionals in public hospitals, among other demands.
The number of doctors in Kenya stood at 9,734 last year and 46,038 nurses, according to the Economic Survey.
The parliamentary committee has questioned the Treasury on whether the government was only keen on addressing the concerns of doctors and nurses while ignoring other medical care staff — clinical officers, pharmacists, dentists, public health officers and technicians.
“On the medics strike the members’ concern is whether the government was addressing concerns of just nurses and doctors and ignoring all the other medical practitioners,” the committee said in a report.
Private hospital doctors last week made good their threat of boycotting duties every Thursday in solidarity with their public sector counterparts.
The Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco), whose members resumed duties together with the nurses after a week of protests, said over the Christmas weekend that their members would continue offering care in public hospitals.
Kuco secretary-general George Gibore, however, said that medical superintendents (doctors) in some public hospitals were barring clinical officers from accessing the facilities even when they were willing to work.