Doctors turn to Ruto to break talks stalemate to end the ongoing strike

KMPDU Secretary General Devji Attellah (3rd right) and Deputy Secretary General Dennis Maskellah (right) singing solidarity songs with Doctors, Medical interns and medical students at the Mega Doctors assembly after a press briefing on ongoing doctors strike Nairobi on 2nd April 2024 [David Gichuru, Standard]

The Kenya Medical Practitioners Dentist Union (KMPDU) officials have called on President William Ruto to intervene and resolve the ongoing doctors' strike.

As the strike hit 21 days, the union officials claimed that it has been hard for them to reach a consensus with the Ministry of Health as well as the county governors.

Speaking on Tuesday during a press briefing that brought together doctors and medical interns from different counties, KMPDU Secretary-General Dr Davji Atellah said they need more doctors in hospitals.

“When the people who are appointed in the offices or given jobs in different departments are failing, then it means that the leader of the country has to come out and defend the Kenyans to get healthcare,” said Dr Atellah.

Atellah said the Head of State has an obligation to protect the rights of every Kenyan, including access to quality healthcare services as stipulated in Article 43 of the Constitution.

Atellah noted that the ratio of doctor to patients is at 1:1700, and if healthcare is the country's priority, then the relevant authority should employ more doctors.

“If healthcare is a priority for the country, then the government must come out strongly to defend it. We cannot say we have Universal Health Care by building white elephant projects in different counties,” said Atellah.

He accused the ministries of Labour and Health for not presenting clear plans for them during the talks, noting that the strike will still go on until their demands are met.

“We are not going to back down because we have had a lot of negotiations but the government has not come up with a plan,” Atellah said.

The union official dismissed governors' claim that the strike has caused pain to patients in hospitals, saying that they are the ones who have failed the people and that threatening doctors will not bear any fruit.

“Threats and intimidations will not make us go back to hospitals. We will only go when given a clear-cut plan that our issues are being resolved,” he said.

Atellah called on President Ruto to intervene in finding a lasting solution on their issues, including posting of intern doctors as per Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and implementation of the CBA by paying the basic salary arrears for the last seven years.

Other issues raised by the medics include payment of the postgraduate fees for doctors who are in universities and hiring of more than 4,000 unemployed doctors.

He said he feels that the CBA is being contravened and ignored against doctors' will.

"Manipulation of the CBA is being done deliberately to the extent of reducing the salaries of interns by 91 per cent. It is violating the agreement that they need to post these intern doctors 30 days after completing their education,” he said.

Medics' concern

However, KMPDU Deputy Secretary-General Dennis Miskellah said the strike is not a bargaining strategy for them but they want their matters looked into.

“It breaks our heart when we see Kenyans going to hospitals and not getting the care that they deserve. Kenyans deserve the best of care,” Miskellah said. 

He also noted that many doctors have been depressed and others gone to an extend of committing suicide because of the challenges they are going through.

“We have lost four doctors this year to suicide because of the frustrations they go through at their workplaces,” he said.

Miskellah said that patients who are unable to pay for private hospital services are the ones suffering the most, and blamed the government for the mess saying it is risking the lives of Kenyans.