Why doctors rejected Sh2.4bn State offer on hiring of interns


Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union Secretary General Davji Atellah addressing journalists at RFUEA Grounds in Nairobi on April 2,2024. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

Kenya's health crisis has deepened after doctors rejected a government offer to call off strike in what is set to prolong the pain of patients into the fourth week.

The medics on Wednesday maintained that unless the government addressed all their grievances they will not report to work, a day after the government said it had released Sh2.4 billion to hire interns.

The Employment and Labour Relations Court on Wednesday ordered doctors to suspend the strike that has since entered its 22nd day and give room for negotiations.

Justice Byram Ongaya ordered that the negotiations be completed within 14 days and that the parties be back in court on April 17.

“The strike notice remains suspended and the nation approach is to be completed in the next 14 days and the parties to report back in court,” Justice Ongaya said. The nation approach is being driven by the government and it includes counties and other stakeholders.

He also ordered that the Council of Governors compile and file in court the staffing gaps in hospitals.

“Let us know the gaps in our hospitals, which health care workers are available and what is the number or we will just be talking about minimal services which are not there,” he said.

However, the doctors have said they are not calling off the strike until the government and governors comply with their demands.

Davji Atellah, the secretary-general of Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) said the money that the government claimed to have released for intern doctors was meant for all the medical interns. “This was impunity of the highest order, you cannot purport to have released Sh2.4 billion for the intern doctors yet you have reduced their salaries by 91 percent. This is utter contempt. We will not entertain this,” Dr Davji said.

Head of Public Service Felix Koskei announced the release of Sh2.4 billion to facilitate the deployment of intern doctors.

Dr Atellah said for the government to release money following the guidelines issued by the SRC, they have reduced the internship pay by 91 percent. “For them to be paid as per the SRC, it means they have gone against the 2017 court order which ordered the implementation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. They are in contempt. Ideally, the budget to cover all medical interns was Sh4.8 billion and they have reduced the salaries by half,” he said.

“There is a need to distinguish these junior doctors from other interns in the public service. Besides working beyond the legal limit of work hours, they endure exposure to life-threatening occupational risks,” Dr Atellah said.

A circular by the SRC dictates that medical interns, who, according to KMPDU, should earn a net salary of about Sh150,000 have been paid between Sh35,000 and Sh70,000.

The circular, effective March 13, stated that medical officer, pharmacist and dental officer interns would be paid a stipend of between Sh47,000 and Sh70,000 while nursing officer and clinical officer interns would get between Sh35,000 and Sh50,000.

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