Doctors threaten to strike over Sh3bn Covid perks


KMPDU secretary-general Chibanzi Mwachonda. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Doctors have issued a strike notice over the withdrawal of special perks offer to medical staff in their fight against Covid-19.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) are protesting over the Sh3 billion allowances that was offered by the State in April to motivate the medical workers.

The State targeted the perks to last three months, but the doctors union wants the allowance tied to the end of the pandemic.

Kenya declared its first Covid-19 case on March 12 and the numbers yesterday rose to 35,205 with two more deaths reported, bringing the total number of fatalities in the country to 599.

"... the incentive of an enhanced Covid-19 allowance has been withdrawn with no commitment or indication of its payment despite the increased risk that all healthcare workers continue to face,” KMPDU secretary-general Chibanzi Mwachonda said Monday.

“Because of the persistent failure and lackluster approach to address the human resource for health challenges endemic in the health sector (and) worsened by Covid-19 pandemic, KMPDU has resolved to consult and mobilise its members for industrial action if the challenges remain unresolved.”

Medical doctors, pharmacists and dentists were allocated an allowance of Sh20,000 while clinical officers (CO), nurses and medical lab technicians have been taking home Sh15,000 per month.

All other technologists and technicians and paramedics have been receiving Sh10,000 while hospital support staff, including cleaning supervisors have been receiving an allowance of Sh5,000.

The money was part of KSh3 billion welfare package introduced by President Uhuru Kenyatta after the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) approved release of the funds.

Apart from the special allowance to medical staff in the fight against Covid-19, Mr Mwachonda said that doctors working across the country have not been provided with a comprehensive medical insurance cover since July.

He said that several doctors who have been admitted to hospitals have been forced to foot their bills out of pocket or solicit funds from fellow medics to pay their hospital bills.

Compensation for doctors who have lost their lives in line of duty have also not been met.

So far, more than 1,000 healthcare workers have been exposed to the virus, with more than 16 succumbing to the deadly disease.

"Six months into the pandemic the government is yet to fulfill its pledge on provision of comprehensive medical insurance and compensation for those who have lost their lives in the line of duty," he said.

The planned nationwide strike by KMPDU comes barely two weeks after Nairobi County government medical staff resumed work following a six-day strike over delayed salaries and a lack of protective equipment when handling patients who may have COVID-19.

In the agreement, the government promised to pay doctors on the fifth day of every month on the condition that a default could result in quitting work without notice.

The inking of the deal came after a series of talks involving officials drawn from NMS, Nairobi County government and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU).