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Doctors back in court as union officials insist strike still on

By Roselyne Obala | Published Mon, March 13th 2017 at 00:00, Updated March 12th 2017 at 22:30 GMT +3
Pregnant women are admitted at the Bondeni Maternity Hospital in Nakuru County. The maternity wing is receiving more women daily as it is the only hospital offering services due to the ongoing doctors' strike. [PHOTO: MOSES KIPSANG/standard]

The national government’s withdrawal of an offer to doctors last Monday introduced a new twist in the striking medics saga that is coming up in court on Monday.

The withdrawal came as President Uhuru Kenyatta warned of ‘sorting out’ the medics if they failed to be practical in their demands.

The President and governors have vowed not to retreat in their efforts to restore normalcy in healthcare services.

But even as the President talked tough, the doctors’ union was unrelenting. On Monday, they will appear in the Court of Appeal where a case involving their return to duty has been on-going.

“What we know is that we still have a case in court on Monday (today) and that is what we are focused on. We will await the verdict of the court,” said Lukoye Atwoli, the national secretary of the Kenya Medical Association.

CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENT

The Standard is in possession of the return-to-work formula drafted by the national and county governments, and rejected by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials last Monday.

The confidential document had a raft of goodies for the doctors. The President is reported to have stayed up late on Monday night trying to convince the striking doctors to accept his latest offer.

The 12-point proposed formula, if signed by union chairman Samuel Oroko and Secretary General Ouma Oluga, would have shielded doctors from any victimisation once they return to work.

In addition, the deal would have seen the doctors placed in appropriate job groups as per the approved scheme of service and human resources policy and procedure manual for medical officers, dentists and pharmacists.

According to the document, every doctor was to get a new risk allowance of Sh20,000 per month. In addition, the doctors were to receive, with effect from January 1, 2017, additional emergency call allowance.

Medical officer interns were to get an additional Sh36,000 per month, bringing the total to Sh66,000. Medical officers, senior medical officers and medical specialists would have received an additional Sh42,000, bringing the total to Sh72,000.

“Medical specialist I, senior medical specialist II, chief medical specialist I and director medical services were to receive an additional Sh50,000, bringing the total to Sh80,000,” read the return-to-work formula turned down by the doctors.

Council of Governors (CoG) chairman Peter Munya (Meru governor), who read the joint communiqué from the two tiers of government, affirmed that the proposal no longer stands.

This means even a deal to have all promotions effected in accordance with HR guidelines were shelved. The parties were to enter into consent to withdraw all court cases and agree to engage in good faith and trust.

Meanwhile, Governor Kinuthia Mbugua has directed all striking doctors in Nakuru County to report back work or face the sack.

Mr Mbugua said he would not tolerate a number of doctors paralysing services in public hospitals as the strike was illegal. The governor said the doctors should obey the President’s directive and not take advice from their union officials.

“I am asking doctors to report back to work. There is a good response because some have reported. Those who have not heeded the call should do so or prepare to lose their jobs,” said Mr Mbugua at a time when the majority of residents have been unable to access healthcare services.

Despite the directive, South Rift KMPDU Secretary General Davji Atellah said doctors would not report to work until they received clear communication from the national union officials.

Dr Attelah dismissed allegations that some medics had reported to work in Nakuru County.

“Services are still paralysed in the county because we are still on strike,” he said.

In Eldoret, doctors from Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital are yet to return to work despite the President’s directive.

And in Kirinyaga, Governor Joseph Ndathi has warned that medics who fail to return to work this morning will be fired. Mr Ndathi said he would be at the Kerugoya Level Five Hospital gates by 8am today for a physical roll call for all medics.