Doctors accuse State of abandoning talks as strike enters week four

A half-empty ward at the Coast Provincial General Hospital as the doctors' strike continues. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI
A half-empty ward at the Coast Provincial General Hospital as the doctors' strike continues. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI 

Doctors have accused the government of abandoning talks to resolve the ongoing strike that has caused loss of tens of lives as it entered its fourth week.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) secretary-general Ouma Oluga said yesterday the government “is playing games with the minds of Kenyans” by portraying the doctors’ strike as illegal yet the collective bargaining agreement signed in July 2013 and whose implementation they are demanding was binding.

“It is over a week now and the government has not called us for any meeting,” said Dr Oluga in a telephone interview.

“They (government) are trying to play with the minds of wananchi, but our stand remains and of course the CBA must be implemented before we resume work.”

Dr Oluga refuted claims that the government is in talks with expatriate medics from Cuba and India to help address the paralysis occasioned by the nationwide strike.

“We have spoken to doctors’ unions in those two countries and they confirm nothing of the sort,” he said.

The strike, which is now threatening delivery of health services in private facilities, began on December 5 with KMPDU officials vowing to steer clear from the over 2,700 public hospitals until the government implements the CBA.

Private hospital doctors last week made good their threat of boycotting duties every Thursday in solidarity with their public sector counterparts pushing the government to honour its part in the 2013 CBA.

Last week, the picture of a surgeon, Swabra Swaleh Breik, performing surgery at Ol Kalou District Hospital while carrying her son on her back went viral causing an uproar on social media.

The doctor claimed she did not have a caretaker for the child and the hospital did not have another surgeon to perform the operation.

“This is why doctors would not be cheated anymore. CBA means that your surgeon does not have to carry a sick child to perform a delicate surgery on you,” said Dr Oluga.

Besides a 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 Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO), whose members resumed duties together with the nurses after a week of industrial action, said over the Christmas weekend that their members would continue offering primary care in public hospitals.

KUCO secretary-general George Gibore, however, said that medical superintendents who are medical officers (doctors) in some public hospitals were barring clinical officers from accessing public facilities even when they were willing to work.

He said that even as they are battling with government in an ongoing court case addressing better working environment for members, they will continue offering services.