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Doctors issue new conditions to end strike

Efforts to end the doctors’ strike have hit a major setback after the medics issued new conditions before stalled negotiations can resume. Thursday, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) resolved not to engage in any negotiations with the Government if Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu is part of it.
The union also said there has to be a mediator in the talks — possibly the Kenya Medical Association or the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR). The medics also demanded that all sessions of the negotiations be done before the public for transparency. This renewed fight came after they were given a reprieve by the Industrial Court, which suspended union officials’ one-month sentence by a further five days.

Doctors have laid blame on Dr Mailu, claiming he is the stumbling block to the negotiations that have to be re-started every time they stall. In the latest blame game, the doctors said the CS drafted a new CBA and forced them to sign only for them to realise all the agreed clauses were missing. This is despite the CBA agreeing to some of the doctors’ demands, among them a call room, equipping of facilities and provision of security and compensation for the extra hours given.
However, the salaries drafted in the CBA of Sh196,000 for the lowest paid and Sh481,000 for the highest paid were a far cry from the Sh325,000 for the lowest paid and Sh852,000 for the highest paid demanded by doctors. “We no longer want to engage with Mailu. It is either he resigns or he is sacked. But we cannot negotiate with people who have partisan interests,” said KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga.
Suspension extended He added: “It cannot be the CS wants to protect the interests of private sector that serves just one per cent of the population and leave out the rest.”

The new conditions were issued just after the doctors’ union officials appeared in court seeking an extension on their suspended sentence that was to expire Thursday. The doctors had filed the application on Wednesday seeking a further delay on their one month sentence for another 14 days on grounds that they needed more time to fully comply with the directions of the court However, Industrial Court Judge Justice Hellen Wasilwa only extended the suspension by five days. “And the five days in my view are not for negotiations but to call off the strike,” directed Justice Wasilwa.
The extension given according to the judge was because of the ‘gravity’ of the matter and that it was in the ‘public interest’. “It is the duty of this court not to send anybody to jail and I can tell you that since I moved from the Magistrate Court, I have never sent anyone to jail.
The role of this court is to bring this impasse to a solution and so, I further suspend the earlier sentence by five days,” said Wasilwa. Meanwhile, a blogger has filed an urgent suit to compel the Government to resolve the ongoing doctors’ strike.

Robert Alai argued that failure by Mailu to resolve the two-month strike continues to hurt the poor by violating their constitutional right to health services. “Lives have been lost and continue to be lost due to the conduct of the Government and the doctors union officials. All have refused to think of the common people who cannot afford medical services in private hospitals,” swore Mr Alai.


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