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Sobriety called for in stand-off with doctors

By The Standard | Updated Thu, March 9th 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3

Needless to say, negotiations on an amicable settlement to the doctors' strike, now in its fourth month, have been sluggish. The resigned, sad face of Getrude Lusia, mother to Granious Waweru, a six-year-old boy living through the excruciating pain of cancer tells it all.

Daily, the little boy beseeches his mother to take him to a doctor and does not understand why she cannot. That is what many, unlucky to be sick, are going through. There is too much anguish, pain and hopelessness to live through another day of uncertainty.

But just when there was a glimmer of hope the latest round of negotiations was on the verge of bearing fruit, the National and County governments pulled the rug from under the group of negotiators who had worked long hours to beat deadlines imposed by an Industrial Court that has been just as anxious to see an end to the impasse.

While attending the Devolution Conference in Naivasha, President Uhuru Kenyatta was dismissive of the doctors, claiming they were blackmailing the government and withdrew the offer of 50 per cent pay rise. Consequently, the doctors were ordered back to work or get their marching orders.

Initially, demands made by doctors appeared outrageous. Indeed, they could have sparked off a wave of industrial action if granted considering that teachers, nurses, civil servants and university lecturers have demanded better pay and working conditions.

In 2015 and 2016 for instance, teachers and nurses had to accept a lower percentage of their pay hike demands and returned to work.

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Understandably, doctors had scaled down and agreed to the 50 per cent pay hike. What informed the government's move yet the court-directed arbitration process had not reported an impasse is baffling.

The president and governors could have been playing politics, but the timing was wrong. At the end of the day, poor Kenyans will bear the brunt of this needless, even reckless, grandstanding. All is not lost though, a solution must be found out of this national shame.


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