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Union Leader Critical of Sacking of Kenyan Healthcare Workers

Kenya's Prime Minister, Raila Odinga makes an address to the public as President Mwai Kibaki and other members of parliament listen after an official announcement of provisional results of Kenya's constitutional referendum in Nairobi (file photo).

The General-Secretary of Kenya’s Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) said a decision by the government to fire 25,000 striking health professionals will seriously undermine healthcare delivery across the country.

The government said the decision to sack the workers is to “alleviate further suffering of innocent Kenyans” the strike has caused

Union leader Dr. Boniface Chikayi called on the administration and leading members of the healthcare professionals to return to the negotiating table to resolve their differences over wages.

“That measure to sack all the striking health workers and replace them with new ones is not practical at the moment because it is not possible to get 25,000 new health workers within the next few days,” said Chikayi. “It’s going to negatively disrupt provision of health services in Kenyan hospitals for a long time.”

The administration has called on retired and unemployed health professionals to begin applying to fill the positions of the fired workers Friday.

The government described as illegal a strike by the sacked healthcare professionals. Spokesman Alfred Mutua said the names of the sacked health workers are being removed from the government’s payroll and that they will receive their dismissal letters soon.

“Qualified health professionals who are unemployed or retired are advised to report to the nearest health facility for interviews and deployment starting tomorrow [March 9th],” said Mutua. “It is wrong regardless of any disagreement for a health profession to abscond from duty and lead to loss of life or their suffering. The government, and indeed the people of Kenya, will not tolerate this.”

But, Chikayi said the government’s effort to replace the sacked health professionals is unlikely to resolve the negative impact its decision will have on providing decent healthcare to Kenyans

“This is going to disrupt [healthcare delivery] because we do not have a pool of healthcare workers who are waiting to be employed. We do not have that kind of number,” said Chikayi. “The other problem will be a good number of some of these healthcare [professionals], work in the rural areas. It becomes difficult to get new workers [with experience] who are willing to be deployed into these far areas of the country.”

Some Kenyans have expressed concern about the government’s decision to fire the 25,000 health professionals. Some have described the action as ill-advised and drastic, which they say will be detrimental to the well-being of Kenyans.

Chikayi said both the government and the dismissed workers should engage in dialogue.

“Both sides need to stop the chest thumping and realize that, for the sake of the patient, it’s very important that we arrive at a speedy resolution of this matter,” said Chikayi. “Starting from the government side, it must rescind its decision and they must offer an amnesty to all the workers, and the workers must also be prepared to go back to work on a compromise deal.”

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