The leader of Kenya’s health care workers’ union says the group members will remain on strike until the government keeps its part of a labor agreement signed last year.
“We signed an agreement in December 2011 with the government when we [embarked on] this industrial action and nine months down the line, the government has not kept its side of the bargain,” said physician Were Onyino, secretary-general of Kenya’s Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentist Union (KMPPDU)
“We went on strike after even giving an extended strike notice to the government to give them an opportunity to come to the table and give us a clear implementation plan to the issues we agreed [to] last year,” he said.
Onyino said the government has yet made improvements in the country’s health care delivery system as called for in the December agreement.
“Key among these issues is actually addressing the poor state of healthcare in our country,” he said. “And we actually even came up with a report that basically addresses the issues of infrastructure, human resource issues and issues of availing medications to the public.”
Last week, the government described the doctors’ strike as illegal. Despite that, the health care union said its members would not go back to work until their demands are met.
“We are not even asking for any new demands, like salary increases. We are just asking the government to basically implement what was agreed upon last year,” Onyino said.
Some Kenyans have expressed worries that the strike poses a threat to health care throughout the country and that it affects mostly the poor who cannot afford to go to private clinics or hospitals.
There have been calls for compromise between the government and the striking doctors. But Onyino said that has so far been impossible.
“How do you find a compromise when the government does not want to speak to you?” he said. “We first issued the strike notice 22 days ago [yet] not a single government official has actually approached the union so that we can dialogue.”
But Medical Services Minister Anyang Nyong’o says the government is indeed ready to address the grievances cited by the striking health workers.
"We condemn some selfish doctors who incite professional health workers and disrupt delivery of health services to needy Kenyans,” Nyong'o said, according to Kenya media.