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Doctors' union officials go into hiding to avoid arrest

By Josphat Thiong'o | Published Thu, January 12th 2017 at 00:00, Updated January 12th 2017 at 00:01 GMT +3
A cleaner passes time at the Kisumu County Referral Hospital's deserted maternity ward, yesterday. There have not been any admissions at the hospital. [Photo: Denish Ochieng/Standard]

A doctors’ union officials yesterday went into hiding for fear of arrest following an order issued by the courts.

On Tuesday, judge Helen Wasilwa issued a warrant of arrest against seven officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) for refusing to appear in court for sentencing after being found guilty of disobeying a court order to end the ongoing strike.

The union officials’ phones were switched off for the better part of yesterday presumably for fear of being incarcerated.

Calls to the union’s chairperson Samuel Oroko, Secretary General Frederick Oluga and Nairobi branch Secretary Thuranira Kuagiria could not go through. Other officials being sought by the police are Titus Ondoro, Allan Ochanji, Hamisi Chibanzi, Daisy Korir and Evelyne Chege.

In the recent past, the striking medics have taken to the streets to address their grievances, being active on social media and getting holed up in discreet venues for meetings.

They have also kept journalists close to their hearts but all this seems to have changed. The hitherto vocal union officials went mum across all platforms, presumably to let the temperatures cool down.

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By the time of going to press, the last post by KMPDU on their twitter page was dated January 9, and nothing had been posted after the court order.

On December 20, 2016 the judge found the officials guilty of contempt of court, as they continued with the strike despite being aware of the order that suspended the industrial action to give room to negotiations.

The officials had indicated they would not obey the court order, with Justice Wasilwa saying she had issued the order on the basis that she could not condone open defiance of court by the medics.

They face a jail term of up to six months or a fine to be determined by the court, or both.

Meanwhile, Nairobi doctors have declined to pick their ‘show-cause’ letters issued by the county government.

The letters, seeking to know why the doctors should not be fired for absconding duty and participating in the strike since December last year, were signed by County Secretary Robert Ayisi.

Mr Ayisi yesterday confirmed that the county had written the letters to the approximately 124 doctors taking part in the industrial action.

“The strike is not protected by the courts and as such, the doctors should tell us why they should not be sacked,” said Ayisi.

He defended the county’s action of not paying the doctors their December salary, saying the county was obeying the court order that declared the strike illegal.

Ayisi said the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that the medics were quoting in their pay hike demands was illegal as it had not been registered with the courts.

“If the doctors do not come for their letters, we shall post them to their last known addresses,” he added.

Nairobi County Health Executive Benard Muia said the medics had until end of yesterday to collect the letters.

Dr Muia said the letters were with the county superintendent awaiting collection.

He added that the doctors had seven days to respond to the letters failure to which disciplinary action would be taken.

“If they will not have responded within seven days, we shall  sack them,” said Muia.