More than three million residents of Kakamega and Vihiga counties are staring at shut shutdown of medical services in public hospitals if doctors down tools to protest poor working conditions and lack of career progression.
In Kakamega county, doctors have threatened to go on strike on December 10 if their grievances are not addressed.
In a statement dated November 23, issued by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentist Union (KMPDU), Western branch, the doctors vowed to take industrial action if the county government does to address their demands.
In the statement issued by KMPDU Western branch secretary Dr Sande Charo, the doctors have accused the county government of failure to remit statutory deductions for two months to Kenya Revenue Authority (Kra), National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and other private insurance covers.
They have accused the devolved unit of deducting bank loans from their payslips and failing to remit the same to the lenders, which has attracted punitive penalties.
“All doctors employed in 2017 by the county, their NHIF has been reduced from a comprehensive scheme to a national scheme. This has brought unprecedented suffering upon our members, and we would like to understand the reason behind this,” the KMPDU statement reads in part.
“Comprehensive medical cover for all county employees and their dependents will cease to exist, and the employer is looking for an alternative. The union is asking for their input on this matter."
According to KMPDU, the county government only promoted 24 doctors after they threatened to go on strike on August 14 to job group N, but three doctors were left out.
“There was shortlisting of doctors (24 medical officers and 6 pharmacists), for the interviews to take place on October 17 and 18. There were five vacancies for replacement for medical officers and one for a pharmacist. Why is their employment still pending,” the statement reads in part
They also want the county to fast-track the promotion of five doctors to job group Q (assistant director of medical services), arguing that the deadline for application was on September 22, but shortlisting has not been done.
“The Locum doctors have not yet been employed into permanent and pensionable terms, and advertisement for fresh recruitment of doctors has not been done,” noted Dr Charo in his statement.
In Vihiga county, doctors are set to down tools on Monday after lapse of the strike notice.
KMPDU - Western branch acting chairman Dr Joseph Magomere said they will go on strike after Governor Wilbur Ottichilo snubbed a meeting they scheduled to sort the matter amicably.
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The doctors are demanding better working conditions and recognition of specialists who have undertaken training but failed to get promotions by the county government.
The medics have vowed not to report to work on Monday, a move that will paralyse services at the Vihiga County Referral Hospital and the three sub-county hospitals in Sabatia, Hamisi and Emuhaya.
The medics cited failure by Governor Ottichilo's administration to promote doctors who have stagnated in the same job groups.
The doctors revealed salary discrepancies, yet some have served for years at the county.
"The healthcare workers' main issue is that they have had salary variance and lack of recognition for the past years, and we hope this can be addressed," said Dr Magomere.
This will be the second doctors strike in Vihiga county after another industrial action in April over delayed salaries.
Busia county doctors called off their strike recently after paralysing services for two weeks.