Striking doctors risk losing their jobs after 45 county governments advertised for their replacements.
This is the latest move by the county governments to mitigate the collapse of the health sector that has crippled operations across the country.
The strike, which enters its fourth week today, has been a headache for both the counties and the national government.
Proposals for replacing the medics with foreign doctors from Cuba, the Philippines and India have also been floated.
Despite numerous talks to have the doctors return to work spearheaded by the ministries of Health and Labour, no consensus has been reached despite the Government raising the medics’ salaries in a structure that would see the lowest paid Sh185,000 from Sh126,000, and the highest - in Job Group T - taking home Sh425,000, which is almost half of what they are demanding (Sh852,000).
According to notices by 45 counties, 405 positions have been advertised across nine cadres that primarily target professionals affiliated to the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU).
Every county seeks to employ nine professionals, namely medical officers, senior medical officers, an assistant director of medical services (Medical Specialist II), a dental officer, a senior dental officer and assistant director of dental services (Dental Specialist II).
Others are pharmacist, senior pharmacist, and assistant chief pharmacist.
The counties, with the exception of Bomet and Kwale, argue that the move is aimed at improving service delivery.
Earlier, Council of Governors chairman Peter Munya had threatened to have the medics fired if they did not call off the strike as ordered by the courts.
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“In order to strengthen the capacity of the Public Service in the delivery of health services, the County Government of Lamu wishes to recruit competent and qualified persons to fill the following positions,” read one of the adverts.
Those interested were directed to visit the respective county websites for more information and have their relevant documents tendered by January 14.
“Interested candidates should send a CV, cover letter, copies of ID, certificates, testimonials, current and expected remuneration, names and addresses of three referees to the chairperson, County Public Service Board, on or before Friday, January 14,” added the advert.
Other reports that the Government is set to hire 4,000 foreign doctors to replace the striking staff have raised a storm, with the doctors’ union claiming such a move would expose Kenyans to medical staff of questionable qualifications.
Details from the Government indicate that negotiations are already underway with India and Cuba. KMPDU has strongly criticised the credibility of the plan.
“The move by the Government is just naive and a drop in the ocean. It will not be a surprise to see quack doctors being ferried in through this expatriate programme,” said the union’s secretary general, Ouma Oluga.
Dr Oluga said as a union, they would verify the competence of the doctors before they were absorbed into the system.
He confirmed that the union was in touch with the World Medical Organisation to ensure that all the expatriates sent to the country were qualified.
A look into the capacity of the two countries revealed that Cuba has a surplus of over 40,000 medics who are poorly paid. And India has been in the news for having 57 per cent of the doctors not qualified, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In July, WHO revealed in a report titled ‘The Health Workforce in India’ that more than a third (31 per cent) of doctors (basically physicians who should be capable of diagnosing and treating ailments and disorders) were educated only up to secondary school level.
And some 57 per cent of these did not have any medical qualifications. In rural India, 82 per cent of the doctors had no medical qualifications.
Efforts to reach the relevant offices, including the President’s and Government’s spokespersons, for insight into the deal with expatriate doctors were futile as both calls and messages went unanswered.
“The doctors pushed their strike to a level that people are seeking alternatives,” was all Eric Kiraithe, the Government spokesman, said.