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Medics: State not willing to listen to our grievances

 Health workers at Afya House on December 9, 2020. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

The omission of the ongoing plight of healthcare workers in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech on Jamhuri Day has rubbed a section of medics the wrong way.

Clinical officers, who are on strike, have claimed the decision by Uhuru to avoid addressing the issue yet it was a national discourse infers to his administration’s misplaced priorities.

Despite alluding to some of the achievements the country has made in the health sector, and particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, the president steered clear of the ongoing strike, which has seen nurses and clinical officers stay away from public hospitals.

The president in his address noted that more has been done to improve the sector especially during this pandemic that saw intensive care unit beds for infectious diseases increase from eight in March to the current 827.

“During my 12th address on coronavirus pandemic on September 24, 2020, we had 7,411 isolation beds nationally. And this was achieved in only six months. But three months later, in December, 2020, this number has tripled and now stands at 20,910 isolation beds. These achievements cannot be gainsaid,” he said.

Kenya Union of Clinical Officers General Secretary George Gibore, however, said the claim by the president on the increased bed capacity does not reflect the actual situation on the ground.

“We have healthcare workers who have had to be admitted in private facilities because the public hospitals where they work and got infected do not have intensive care unit beds,” said Gibore.

He said as medics, they expected the president to address their challenges. He said Stephen Mogosu and Victor Tiony, a clinician in Nandi County, who succumbed to the virus, left bills amounting to over Sh3 million combined.

 Health workers outside Afya House on December 9, 2020, hold vigil in honour of their colleagues who succumbed to Covid-19. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

“Instead of addressing how and what the government is doing to avert the strike like what other world leaders are doing, the president’s speech focused more on the Building Bridges Initiative,” said the union leader.

Gibore said since healthcare workers work in hospitals, Covid-19 cases and probable deaths can happen.

“But when this happens, we want to ensure that medics received the quality care they need and that the best was done. And if they die or survive, the government should compensate them,” he said.

In his speech, the president thanked healthcare workers for the selflessness to be on the frontline.

“I will never tire of thanking our healthcare workers for their dedication and selflessness amid the greatest public health challenge of the modern era.

Their professionalism, excellence, unfailing commitment to their sacred oath and their sacrifices must be reciprocated by Kenyans acting responsibly amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Clinical officers and nurses downed their tools on December 7, demanding for supply of PPE in all hospitals.

The workers also want the government to provide them with a comprehensive medical insurance cover and employ more personnel.

The union in addition wants the government to provide risk allowance and allow healthcare providers in vulnerable groups to work from home and that all salaries be paid within 14 days.

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