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Kakamega county hires 14 doctors on contract

 Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa holds Maureen Vugusta’s newborn at Lumakanda Hospital maternity wing in March 2024. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Kakamega County has hired 14 medical staff on contract to replace striking doctors.

County Health Executive Bernard Wesonga said the doctors could be absorbed on permanent and pensionable terms after normalcy returns.

Kakamega Teaching County Referral Hospital requires 50 medical doctors for the facility to run effectively but currently, has 24 doctors with 10 employed on permanent and pensionable terms while 14 are serving on contract.

The 14 were hired about a month ago when doctors downed tools.

Dr Wesonga said all the 10 doctors employed on permanent and pensionable terms are on strike. "They are our employees and they are on strike but we thought it wise to hire others under the Locum arrangement to ensure continuity of services at the facility."

The referral hospital receives at least 1,000 patients every day.

“We are attending to many patients, this being a referral hospital many patients are referred to this facility because it is where we have specialists and consultants and to ensure continuous delivery of health services, even if it is at an optimal level, we had to look for a solution and we employed the 14 doctors," said Wesonga.

The Health CEC regretted that the doctors' strike has affected the delivery of health services in public hospitals.

The 14 doctors will take charge of theatre, surgical and special clinic services that have been affected by the strike.

A spot check at the facility revealed that a regional cancer centre located at the County Referral Hospital has only one oncologist doctor but is currently being managed by one oncologist nurse.

Kakamega Deputy Governor Ayub Savula had earlier disclosed that the county administration would start hiring doctors on contract this week to replace the striking medics.

Savula maintained that the striking doctors will be dismissed as directed by Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa who, two weeks ago issued a directive to the medics to resume work or face the sack.

"We know we are in a crisis in Kenya because doctors are on strike and they have been followed by clinical officers but in Kakamega, our governor announced that those on strike are going to be sacked because the labour laws demand that one is to be paid after doing work and we are not going to pay those who are not working,” the deputy governor said.

“Starting this week (Monday), we are hiring new doctors on Locum basis so that our public hospitals can continue working and offering health services to our people who pay taxes and expect to get medical care because it is their right,” he added

Last week, Governor Barasa ordered striking doctors in the county to report to work on April 12 at 8 am without fail.

He warned of disciplinary action against doctors who would fail to resume duty.

"All striking doctors must report to their respective working stations tomorrow (Friday) by 8 am and resume their duties without fail. A doctor who will not be found at his or her working station will be sacked," said Barasa. 

The governor who addressed the media at the county offices said: "We won't hesitate to dismiss any doctor who will not have reported to work by 8 am, we have many qualified doctors who can work diligently when you get replaced." 

"The doctors are not indispensable. I hereby order and direct them to resume their work as negotiations on their grievances are being addressed," he added.

"The Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Byram Ongaya declared the ongoing strike illegal and they (doctors) must abide by it. That is the stand we as the Council of Governors have taken." 

Justice Ongaya, on April 3, suspended the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) strike and ordered that negotiations be completed within 14 days and parties report back to court by April 17. 

"The strike notice remains suspended and the Whole of Nation Approach Committee to be completed in the next 14 days and the parties to report back in court," Justice Ongaya ruled. 

Barasa said as a result of the ongoing strike, theatre, surgical and special clinic services have been affected and the number of patients has drastically reduced. 

"I want to tell the general public that health services at the dispensaries are ongoing and those who are sick, should go and seek medical services," he said.

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