NAIROBI - In Kenya, seven officials from the doctors union will be spending the next month behind bars for refusing to end the strike that has paralyzed the country's public health system for more than two months.
After more than two hours listening to the doctor's lawyer on the progress of the talks between the union officials and the health ministry, High Court judge Hellen Wasilwa, made her ruling — one month in jail.
“Indeed, they have submitted that they are engaging in negotiations ordered by the court on 1st December 2016, but they have not explained why they have chosen to obey part of the order and failed as officials of Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union to call off the strike as ordered by the same court,” she said.
The strike has paralyzed more than 2,500 public health facilities, leaving millions of Kenyans without access to medical care.
But the KMPDU has insisted healthcare providers will not be cowed by threats of termination and arrest. The government and county governors have threatened to replace them with foreign physicians from Cuba and India.
Kenyatta National Hospital Doctor Kevin Ndede is one of the thousands of physicians on strike. He came to the court Monday in solidarity.
“As long as our leaders serve jail terms, there will be no doctors going back to work and there will be no doctor who will engage in any negotiations with the government ... as long as the issues doctors have raised are not being addressed. And clearly, this jail sentence does not address those. It clearly does not solve the problem at hand,” he said.
The striking professionals say the government must fully implement a collective bargaining agreement signed in 2013. The agreement calls for the government to more than double their salaries. It also addresses concerns about the lack of adequate medical equipment in hospitals and poor security for medical staff.
The Treasury says the government does not have the funds to fulfill the demands spelled out in the agreement.