Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o and Public Health and Sanitation Minister Beth Mugo are lucky to have successfully gone through cancer treatment. They are beneficiaries of the offices they hold in Government as their medical bills were largely footed by the Government.
However, their privileged positions often blind them to the plight of fellow Kenyans, who can only access services in ill-equipped local health facilities.
Had they been ordinary mortals in far-flung areas like Turkana, Garissa or Busia, their story would be different.
The two ministers are charged with the responsibility of ensuring efficient provision of health services. It is on this premise that we focus on the on-going health workers’ strike over unimplemented agreement the Government committed itself more than a year ago.
Prof Nyong’o, Ms Mugo and senior ministry officials are being inconsiderate to the striking doctors in the country’s largest referral hospital – Kenyatta National Hospital – when they ignore the doctors. Their refusal to listen to grievances of trainee doctors – registrars – sums up what ails public institutions. Our institutions are governed by tyranny and impudence of the worst kind.
The truth of the matter is poor patients who cannot afford treatment abroad like the ministers are being inconvenienced. The patients have turned into collateral damage in the tug-of-war between the hospital and doctors.
The stipend the trainee doctors are asking for is a genuine demand and nearly inconsequential to the services they provide. Hospital management and the ministry are under obligation to sit down with the doctors and agree on terms.
It does not make sense for the managers to act so dismissively and miserly when responding to these demands. It is also a demonstration of utter arrogance for the managers of the hospital to send the doctors packing on the pretext that they are using Government facilities to train.
Truth be told: they are training to serve the country. In addition, the doctors do preliminary diagnosis before their more experienced seniors to see patients.
So, in opting for intransigence on demands for stipend, the Government, ministry and hospital managers are committing a serious travesty of justice, particularly at a time the cost of living is skyrocketing.
The eviction of the doctors from houses by the hospital is a dirty tactic aimed at arm-twisting the picketing doctors to drop their demands and resume work. What the hospital did not realise was that senior doctors would down their tool in solidarity with their colleagues.
For a long time, the Government has buried its head in the sand and assumed a business-as-usual attitude. The outcome is that there has been a staffing haemorrhage in the Health Ministry as highly qualified doctors walk out on the Government in pursuit of greener pastures abroad.