Kenya?s Medical Services Minister Peter Anyang' Nyong?o says he will be meeting leaders of a group of medical professionals today (Monday) who are threatening to go on strike.
?We have been improving the terms of service of doctors over the last three years in mind with budgetary provisions [and] we are in continuous discussion with them on these issues,? said Nyong?o. ?There is no dispute between us and them because no discussions have broken down. And so I am going to meet them [today] and find out what?s going on because we are quite ready to discuss whatever issues they put on the table.?
Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) have vowed to go on strike if their demands are not met before December.
The group is demanding a 25 percent monthly pay increase for their members, which will see the lowest paid member rise from Sh60, 000 ($658.617) to Sh240, 000 ($2,634.47).
KMPDU blames the government for what it describes as the heavy exodus of medical professionals to other African countries where they are ?paid and treated better.?
KMPDU secretary general, Boniface Chitayi, is quoted in the press as saying ?we have passed a resolution to go on strike with effect from December 5 following futile attempts by our union to engage the government in discussions? If our demands are not met, doctors will stay at home; neither will there be any emergency calls unless the government calls us for negotiations, in which case we are ready.?
Some observers have expressed concern the government might not have enough funds to meet the demands of public sector workers including the medical professionals.
?With inflation and economic difficulties, of course people will want better salaries and so on. But it will depend on how we sequence what we have done,? said Nyong?o. ?Government is not dead broke [so] that government cannot meet some demands; at the same time, government is not John D. Rockefeller [who can] afford everything at the same time.?
Minister Nyong?o says he is willing to listen to the group. He also says the government already has policies in place that are improving the lives of medical professionals.
?We have already worked on a very strategic investment programs for the health sector, which we discussed at the prime minister?s committee last Tuesday,? said Nyong?o. ?We all agreed that what we need to do very soon is to have an investment conference on the health sector specifically, to see how we can bring in private-public partnerships in certain areas so that government resources can be released to meet recurrent expenditure.?