Battle looms at port over new medical scheme as workers want it stopped

Dock Workers Union General Secretary Simon Sang during a meting at the Union's office in Mombasa County on July 1, 2022. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Port workers are up in arms with their medical service provider claiming the scheme does not cater to their health needs.

The workers threatened to call a strike and paralyse port operations to force the abolition of the new medical scheme.

This followed the death of one of the employees Mr Benson Oluoch on February 22 this year after he was reportedly discharged from the intensive care unit (ICU) of a superior hospital and 'dumped' at another health facility in Mombasa county after his medical cover was exhausted.

Dock Workers Union (DWU) officials yesterday called for the suspension of the new scheme. The scheme, he further said had cut down the in-patient medical cover by half.

DWU General Secretary Simon Sang said port workers were already feeling the pinch after the new scheme was introduced on a trial basis from January 1, this year and hence it should be scrapped.

The union gave Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) management 21 days to withdraw the new scheme or face a street demonstration.

Sang told KPA to revert to the old medical scheme which was registered at the Employment and Labour Relations court under the 2020-2023 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The union also threatened to sue KPA management over Mr Oluoch's death. Sang noted that four port employees who were admitted at the Agan Khan hospital in critical condition were discharged on February 20 this year and taken to Coast General Teaching and Referral hospital but could not be admitted due to a lack of beds.

Another patient Mr Bernard Mwange Mumo who was reportedly discharged from the ICU was taken to another hospital in Mombasa by family members.

"In compliance with the impugned management directive, two of the employees who were in ICU were discharged on February 20, 2023, and dumped at the Coast General Hospital where they were abandoned as they could not be re-admitted due to lack of beds," Sang noted.

But acting KPA managing director Mr John Mwangemi said the new medical scheme was negotiated and agreed upon during a Joint Industrial Council (JIC) held on October 31 to November 2, 2022.

"The above agreement is a negotiated item derived through JIC and therefore any deliberations of the same shall be through the council where agreements are binding.

"The scheme was implemented with effect January 1, 2023, and is subject to review with six months to address challenges and achievements," Mwangemi said in a letter to the union dated February 23, 2023.

He said the issue of Mr Mumo was handled as per the agreement and that the family was guided accordingly in regards to the exhausting limits.

Sang was flanked by chairman Juma Mwasera, assistant general secretary Ms Nimo Ibrahim and assistant treasurer Gunda Kaneno among other officials.

Mr Mwasera said since the new scheme has not been registered, it should be suspended because its implementation has caused suffering to port workers.

Mr Kaneno called for the convening of the Joint Industrial Council (JIC) between the KPA management and the union to discuss the effects of the new scheme.

Under the new controversial scheme, the agreed medical cover for families in the lower cadre is Sh230,000 for outpatient, Sh2.5 million for inpatients, Sh40,000 for optical, Sh30,000 for dental, Sh100,000 for maternity, and Sh100,000 for rehabilitation costs.