Doctors' strike continues to bite as patients suffer slow services

Doctors led by Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union Secretary General Davji Atela members demonstrate outside The Afya house in Nairobi on April 9th 2024. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

A section of doctors across the country are offering services in public facilities after declining to join their colleagues on the nationwide strike.

The Standard has established that doctors on contract are serving Kenyans in a number of facilities, albeit with fears of a potential attack and victimisation by their colleagues.

In Nyanza, major hospitals in Kisumu and Migori are relying on doctors on contract to offer services to patients.

A doctor in Kisumu claimed they are still offering services because the nature of their contract differs from that of their colleagues. Similarly, another doctor also confirmed that they are offering services in Kilifi because of their contractual obligations.

In Nyeri, the provision of healthcare services in all public facilities has continued undeterred, a day after Governor Mutahi Kahiga vowed to dismiss all doctors on strike.

There is slow delivery of services at healthcare facilities due to low turnout of patients, especially at the outpatient departments.

Speaking to The Standard, Nyeri County Health Executive Joseph Kiragu said all departments were operating smoothly despite 62 doctors participating in the ongoing strike.

Show-cause letters

Out of 139 doctors, 62 are on strike, 18 are on study leave and 83 were approved for training. “All healthcare services are being offered in all our facilities. But we have a low number of patients seeking services. On Friday, we issued show-cause letters to the 62 doctors on strike and we are receiving their responses,” Dr Kiragu said.

A spot check at Mt Kenya sub-county hospital revealed a slow pace in delivery of services with only a handful of patients seeking services.

Catherine Nyambura, a patient, said: “I am happy there are some doctors attending to patients. I brought my ailing brother and he has been treated”.

At Nyeri County Referral Hospital, the situation was similar with few patients. In some departments, healthcare officials were present but with no patients to attend to. Majority of patients have resorted to seeking services at private facilities due to the doctors’ strike. 

Health services in Murang’a public facilities stalled with patients directed to private outlets. A source at Murang’a Level Five Hospital divulged that services stalled as doctors and clinicians went on strike.

A team of clinicians is on standby to attend to emergencies. The source said when an emergency case is brought it is attended to. 

“Only the emergency cases are responded to here. The specialist clinics for patients in need of consultants and diagnosis have stopped. Only a skeleton staff is around,” said a health worker. 

In Migori County, it was business as usual at Migori County Referral Hospital as patients received medical services.

A spot check showed patients queueing for services. The laboratory section, X-ray, outpatient department and theatre section had patients waiting for services.

Patients reported to have been getting services, saying they have not been turned away. “I fell sick last night and came to the hospital today. I have been treated and discharged,” Duncan Ouma said. 

Migori Health CEC Julius Nyerere said they have responded to the crisis well and are ensuring patients are treated. “Emergency services are being covered,” Mr Nyerere said, adding that Governor Ochilo Ayacko is committed to providing health services.

He encouraged patients to visit health facilities across the county saying services were being offered. But many patients still fear visiting public health facilities over the doctors’ strike.

“I have been sick but fear visiting public hospitals due to the ongoing strike. I feel my issue will not be looked at and I will be turned away. I just went to a private hospital last week,” Martha Awuor, a resident said.

In Uasin Gishu County, health services  have been running smoothly with Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) Eldoret, announcing that it was ready to receive and treat all patients referred to them from across the North Rift region and western Kenya.

Dr Owen Menach, the Acting Director of Clinical Services at MTRH said the hospital has been honouring agreements signed with the doctors and that their doctors have not gone on strike.

“In as much as there is an ongoing nationwide strike, MTRH Eldoret is operational. We have maintained cordial industrial relations with all health workers unions and we have addressed the majority of the doctors’ concerns. We have complied with the majority of the Collective Bargain Agreements (CBA) signed with our doctors,” said Dr Menach.

At Uasin Gishu Sub-County Hospital patients seeking treatment are attended to as usual. “I came here in the morning to have my son treated and I am happy that we found health workers who treated him and prescribed some medication,” said Salome Owino from Eldoret town.

However, KMPDU North Rift branch secretary Dr Kamonzi Mulei emphasized that all doctors in public hospitals in the area have joined their colleagues in the strike.

Mulei said the strike would continue until their demands are fully met.

[Reports by James Murumi, Boniface Gikandi and Anne Atieno]

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