Officials of the doctors union say they are ready to go to jail over their stance on the health workers strike which is in its second week.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Secretary General Ouma Oluga maintained that doctors will not resume their duties until the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed in 2013 is fully implemented.
“We as a union are ready to go to the full end of that legal issue. If it is being arrested that will end patients suffering, we want to tell the government to do so now!” he said.
He underscored the need for the government to act fast and resolve the issue with the utmost urgency.
“Let this process be done very fast so that we can go to jail and then things can happen fast instead of government wasting our time in court cases. The only thing that will take doctors back to work is the implementation of the CBA,” he stated.
The consultants’ representative Omondi Oyoo stated that none of them will offer services until their demands are met.
“All the consultants totalling 300 from the Kenyatta National Hospital and University of Nairobi are also in strike until the demands made by the KMPDU are met in full,” he said.
He emphasised that no consultant will be present to offer services at the KNH.
“We the consultants hereby withdraw all services including emergency services rendered at the KNH both at private and public wings, in-patient and out-patient services with immediate effect,” he stated.
In the meantime, a psychologist working at the hospital explained that doctors undergo a lot of stress and mental pressure due to the nature of the services they render.
According to Dr Margaret Makanyengo, doctors frequently visit her office to get assistance to deal physiologically with their stress and this has a negative impact on their performance.
“A number of doctors are our clients simply because of the stress, simply because of depression, simply because they are not able to meet basic needs,” she said.
“Right now, my experience is that when doctors get sick, we have to organise harambees for them because they cannot afford proper medical care in their facilities.”
Her sentiments were echoed by KMPDU Chairman Samuel who stated that they will not budge until their demands are met.
“And we are telling the government, be clear, come out and solve the problem of doctors in Kenya, once for all. For now we are talking about the suffering of doctors,” he said. “Doctors who go to work because they are sick because they cannot even afford their own services which they offer. Doctors who toil day and night to make ends meet.”
The Employment and Labour Relations Court declared the doctors strike illegal and ordered them to resume work immediately.
The court directed union officials to call off the strike that began last Monday, noting paralysed operations have led to the deaths of about 20 people.
Health workers countrywide downed their tools saying it would be the longest in Kenya’s history.
Unions are demanding a 300 percent pay increment for doctors, and 25 to 40 percent rise for nurses.
They said they had signed a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the government in 2013 but that it is yet to be implemented.
The medics’ union is also asking a review of working conditions, job structures, criteria for promotions, and under-staffing of medical professionals in state hospitals.
Last Wednesday, the government offered a Sh50,000 increase for the lowest paid doctors, which would raise their salaries to Sh176,000, but unions rejected it and walked out of talks.
President Uhuru Kenyatta also urged doctors to return to work promising that a solution would be found.