Quickly resume talks with striking health workers

Medical graduates protested outside the Nakuru County Referral Hospital-Annex. [Hilda Otieno, Standard]

Clinical officers in public hospitals downed their tools yesterday, joining doctors who have been on strike for more than two weeks now.

This latest development adds to the woes of patients in public hospitals, which is why the government and medics should sit at a round table and iron out outstanding issues.

The bone of contention for both cadres of medics are Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) signed in 2017, but which the government has been reluctant to implement.

In the absence of doctors, clinical officers have shouldered most of the burden of treating patients, but now that they are on strike as well, it means there is total paralysis in the medical sector that calls for immediate attention.

We cannot afford to have a repeat of the 2017 situation in which a doctors strike lasted 100 days. For this reason, Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha should give priority to talks with doctors in order to get to a middle ground that will allow the resumption of work while paving the way for further negotiations. 

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Deputy Secretary General Dennis Miskellah claimed recently that the union, having dropped its demands from 17 to 10, was ready to engage, but the government was dragging its feet. 

The need for candid talks cannot be gainsaid. This is not the time to harden positions.

The government owes it to Kenyans not to let the stand-off degenerate into a contest of wills. Suffering Kenyans cannot wait to see who blinks first. With the lives of thousands of patients in public hospitals on the line, common sense must prevail.

It is not enough for Ms Nakhumicha to call for a review of the doctors’ CBA just because she was not the CS at the time of its signing. That is escapist and does little, if anything, to solve the problem at hand. Both parties to the dispute should address the issues at hand soberly, and objectively.

It is time for the government and health workers to soften their hard stances and agree to meet halfway for the sake of Kenyans.

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