NAIROBI - Kenyan doctors Monday joined clinical officers and nurses in a nationwide strike that is likely to make it harder for patients to receive treatment. Doctors called the strike after talks with the government regarding pay and coronavirus protective gear broke down.
Kenya’s health facilities are facing a crisis after doctors joined other health workers to demand better pay, medical insurance coverage and better protective equipment to help them combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Chibanzi Mwachonda is the secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union. On Monday, he attended the funeral of a doctor who died of the coronavirus. Speaking to journalists in Kisii county while attending the burial service, Mwachonda said the government is yet to accept their demands.
“Doctors across the country today can no longer wait; we will not engage in hazardous and dangerous work environment," he said. "We will not engage without assurance of our treatment, assurance of compensation to the young families that most doctors have and assurance of employment. There is no point in training doctors and not employing them. So today begins a nation strike notice by KMPDU we remain available and after this we hope that we will engage come tomorrow to find resolutions to this matter.”
The doctor was the 13th union member to die of the coronavirus, according to officials.
The strike was supposed to start two weeks ago, but the union postponed the planned work stoppage after the intervention of the parliamentary health committee, which urged more time for dialogue.
The doctors and dentist union joins clinical officers and nurses who began to strike two weeks ago.
The Health Ministry has threatened to fire medical workers if the strike continues.
Wycliffe Oparanya is Kakamega County governor and Council of County Governors chairperson. He says it’s unfair for doctors to go on strike during the pandemic and that appropriate action will be taken against striking medics.
“If they decided to go on strike also, let's take stunt action against them, we shall remove them from the payroll. I have directed that we carry out recruitment of other nurses,” he said.
Mwachonda says the only way they will go back to work is if their demands are met.
“No amount of intimidation, no amount of threats will make doctors go back to work," he said. "I will say it very clearly and again; court orders will not stop this strike, court orders will not stop doctors from dying, court orders will not stop infections or reduce infection amongst doctors. It’s our lives and we have been pushed to the wall. We gave 21 days, we extended further 14 days so a total of 35 days — decisions have to be made now on these matters.”
The clinical officers’ union has been engaged in talks with government officials to find ways to end the strike.
The union chairman, Peterson Wachira, says it’s not safe for them to return to work.
In 2017, a doctors’ strike lasted for 100 days before an agreement was reached to end the work stoppage.