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Kenya’s Doctors, Nurses Strike for Better Pay

  • Rael Ombuor

Ouma Oluga, Secretary-General of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentist Union (KMPDU), addresses doctors during a strike to demand fulfillment of a 2013 agreement between their union and the government, outside Ministry of Health headquarters in Nairobi, Dec. 5, 2016.

Kenya's doctors and nurses are on strike, demanding an increase in pay and better working conditions. The strike began after talks called by the health ministry collapsed late Sunday.

Nearly 2,000 Kenyan doctors and nurses marched Monday to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance in Nairobi.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union, which represents doctors at state hospitals, says its members are demanding a 300 percent salary increase from the collective bargaining agreement signed between the doctors and government in June 2013. Union leader Ouma Oluga said the Kenyan government has not upheld the agreement.

“What is most annoying is the fact that we agreed with the government, they signed the pay and up to three years they have not paid us our money. So that is what has brought all these doctors. ... We have 5,000 doctors that are on strike today in all public hospitals from Kenyatta National Hospital, to Moi Teaching and referral hospital to all the 47 county government hospitals, and we shall not return back to work until such a time that the government implements the [collective bargaining agreement] in full and pays in arrears,” said Oluga.

The contentious agreement between the ministry and the union covered several issues, including review of job groups, doctor’s postgraduate studies, promotions, transfers and pay.

The agreement calls for the health ministry to hire at least 1,200 doctors yearly during the next four years to reduce Kenya's doctor-patient ratio.

If implemented, under the agreement the lowest paid doctor would pocket $3,420 and the highest slightly more than $9,400 per month. Currently the highest physician's monthly salary is $5,000 while the lowest is $400.

Striker Dr. Zephania Ashira, an obstetrician now in his third year of practice, said corruption is why doctors and public servants are poorly paid.

"If you stand for a political post, you stand to gain financial rewards. But if you spend your time to really do the work and give service to the people, you end up going home without anything substantial," said Dr. Ashira.

The strike has affected all 47 counties in Kenya, leaving only private hospitals in operation.

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