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Doctors defy return-to-work order despite State's threat of dismissal

By Graham Kajilwa | Updated Wed, January 11th 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3
Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union(KMPDU) officials led by Secretary General Dr. Ouma Oluga (C) and Chairman Samuel Oroko (R) addressing the media outside Kenyatta national Hospital , Nairobi on Monday 19/12/16 where they threatened to withdraw from the negotiation if the government arrest any of their officials for not calling off the strike. PHOTO BY PIUS CHERUIYOT

Striking doctors have dared the Government to sack them as the crippling strike drags into its sixth week.

Officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) said it was unfortunate that the Government had resorted to strong-arm tactics to crush the strike.

With an arrest warrant now out for the union leaders after they failed to appear in court, doctors yesterday maintained that they would not report to work until their demands were met, including backdated pay arrears.

KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga dismissed the threat, saying it was not the first time the Government was threatening to sack doctors.

Mr Oluga (pictured) accused the Government of using the courts to intimidate union officials by issuing arrest warrants.

ALSO READ: Welder who lost right arm and leg longs for an end to painful medics' strike

“The Government has run out of options and now it is announcing that they want to sack us for the second time and advertise our positions again. They have even gone to an extent of using the courts to intimidate us at the expense of poor Kenyans,” said Oluga.

On Monday, Council of Governors chairman Peter Munya announced that if the doctors did not return to work by today, they would receive dismissal letters.

Already, advertisements for 405 medical officers, dentists, and pharmacists - all affiliated to KMPDU in 45 counties -have been published and a process is ongoing to have the medics replaced beginning January 14.

Addressing doctors who had convened in Nairobi in solidarity with the union leaders, Oluga said no amount of threats would make the medics relent.

He said should the officials be arrested, the union had other capable members to spearhead the fight for better pay.

“We cannot joke around with 5,000 of the brightest minds we have in this country. The big question is what kind of healthcare system does this country have? And does it respond to the needs of Kenyans? It is a shame and a warrant of arrest will not solve this,” he said.

ONLY OPTION

ALSO READ: Kenyan doctors earn double income, claims Governor Ranguma

“The only option remaining for the Government is to implement the CBA in arrears.”

While the doctors want the contentious CBA implemented as it is to factor in a 150 to 180 per cent pay increase, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has maintained that the state is willing to negotiate a new CBA within 30 to 60 days from their return to work date as the current one has salary structures that are way above other civil servants’.

According to Treasury, it will cost the taxpayer Sh12 billion to implement the 2013 CBA. Doctors have disputed this figure, arguing that the amount is Sh8.1 billion.

The striking doctors have rejected the offer of an enhanced pay increase of 40 per cent with a new risk allowance of Sh10,000, and a more than 100 per cent increase in call allowance - from Sh30,000 to Sh66,000.

Instead, they are demanding Sh325,000 for the lowest paid doctor (up from a Sh196,000 offer) and Sh852,000 for the highest paid, which is double the Sh472,000 offered.

Oluga said every year the Government, through the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), sends Sh10 billion to India for specialised care of Kenyan patients.

They also argued that from the Sh51 billion collected as social insurance from Kenyans, Sh33 billion went to private hospitals, which are a luxury for a chosen few.

ALSO READ: Warrant of arrest issued against doctors’ union officials for ignoring court order

“It’s simple - take Sh12 billion, implement the CBA and let doctors treat 99 per cent of all patients. Our salaries (Sh3.6 billion) are just 0.25 per cent of the Sh150 billion total public health expenditure. That is not too much to ask,” said Oluga.

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