Ruto was honest on doctors' strike, says Atwoli

 COTU Secretary-General Francis Atwoli. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

Central Organization of Trade Unions of Kenya (COTU-K) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli has affirmed that President William Ruto's recent statements regarding the ongoing doctors' strike reflected honesty about the government's financial constraints in meeting their demands.

Speaking on Citizen TV on Wednesday night, Atwoli remarked on the importance of acknowledging the President's sincerity in addressing the issue within the available resources.

Atwoli asked health workers unions to heed the significance of Ruto's remarks, suggesting that despite funding challenges, a solution to the prolonged strike, now in its fourth week, could be reached through dialogue and compromise.

The COTU boss said, “Ruto is sincere. He is trying to be honest with what he has. But then that honesty should be turned into something like an agreement. We must find a solution out of it.”

The remarks followed President Ruto's assertion to doctors that they should not expect more than what the government has already proposed due to financial limitations. Ruto underscored the need for fiscal responsibility, stating, "We must be honest and tell the truth. We can't continue to borrow money to pay salaries.”

Echoing Ruto's stance, Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha reiterated the ministry's shortfall in funding to meet doctors' demands. But, doctors have vowed to remain steadfast in their strike until their grievances are addressed.

The impasse has prompted mixed reactions, including calls for Nakhumicha's resignation from some quarters of the political arena, citing her perceived inability to resolve the crisis.

Last week, Embakasi East Member of Parliament Babu Owino initiated a motion for her removal, citing "gross violation of Articles 26(1) and 43(1)(a) of the Constitution and incompetence.”

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi has also voiced support for Nakhumicha's resignation, asserting that if she cannot secure funding from the Treasury for such a critical ministry, resignation is the only recourse.

Contrary to these calls, Atwoli advocated against Nakhumicha's resignation, suggesting that the issues at hand could be resolved through dialogue rather than her removal from office.

The COTU boss disclosed his efforts to convene discussions involving the President, relevant government agencies, medical unions, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Labour to facilitate a mutually acceptable resolution.

However, until the said talks materialize, public hospitals continue to operate under strained conditions, compelling many Kenyans to seek medical care in private facilities amidst the protracted strike by doctors.