More than one month has gone by since the countrywide doctors' strike began. The underlying causes of the strike are many, but the doctors are aggrieved more by the Government’s failure to honour a Comprehensive Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between its representatives and the doctors' union signed in 2013.
Kenyan doctors claim their pay is not commensurate with the hard work and long hours that they put in. Consequently, they demanded a 300 percent pay rise which the Government acceded to through the 2013 CBA.
It would seem the Government reneged on this agreement, hence the stalemate that has caused so much suffering among Kenyans of modest means who cannot afford healthcare at private medical facilities. Kenyans have lost count of the deaths this strike has caused while doctors stand their ground in the face-off.
Talks between ministry officials, governors and the doctors' union have yielded no results. The Labour Court’s declaration of the strike as illegal has not weakened the doctors' resolve to stay their course. Notwithstanding the Hippocratic Oath, doctors say it is either they get a full 300 per cent pay rise or no work. Clearly, there is an impasse that must be resolved sooner than later to alleviate suffering among poor Kenyans.
It is against this backdrop that talks between the doctors' union and President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Mombasa yesterday offer a glimmer of hope that something will finally be done to convince the doctors to go back to work.
Yet even as this is being done, there is need for a more structured way of handling the health sector between the National and County governments as each side lays blame for the strike at the door step of the other. Buck passing will not solve the doctor’s problems, all the more reason why serious round-table discussions are necessary.