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Hospitals discharge patients as doctors' strike enters fourth day

 An empty maternity ward at Kakamega County Teaching and Referee Hospital. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

It is a weekend of more agony for patients seeking services in public health facilities, as doctors continued with their strike amid a deepening impasse.

Health services remained paralysed in most parts of the country, with some patients seeking alternative options for medical attention as the strike called by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) entered day four.

In Western Kenya, patients were being discharged to seek treatment in private facilities. At the Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital, there was no one to attend to patients in the maternity, female and male wards and all discharged by the facility’s management.

“Medical officers on locum refused to attend to patients, fearing that they could encounter emergency cases that required the intervention of specialist doctors, who are on strike,” said a medic who sought anonymity, saying all the wards had discharged patients.

He went on, “The medical officers are only stabilising patients and referring them to other privately-owned facilities. Even Clinical officers cannot handle complex cases. What happens when they encounter a complicated case that requires a consultant?” he posed.

An expectant mother, Lilian Masitsa from Shinyalu, was forced to go back after she missed her clinic as the gynecologist was not on duty.

“My pressure level is high. I have been given a clinic date to come back to see the doctor after the strike is called off,” said Ms Masitsa.

Mr Peter Mutsoso was forced to seek medication in a private hospital after he was left unattended.

He said that he had spent almost three hours without help and his condition was deteriorating, thus was forced to seek attention at a private facility. “I am used to public hospitals because they offer treatment at affordable rates compared to private ones”.

He urged the government to intervene so that patients from vulnerable homes do not suffer.

According to Kakamega Health Executive Bernard Wesonga, the county has hired Locum doctors to offer critical services.

“In critical sections like ICU, renal, theatres and maternity, we are offering services but have a challenge in clinics where the services of specific doctors are required,” said Wesonga

In Busia, doctors at the referral hospital kept off their workstations saying that they did not recognise the court order since it was issued only to their Kenyatta National Hospital counterparts. They empathised with the patients, telling them to bear with the doctors who are fighting for their rights.

In a move akin to Kakamega, patients in Busia were also being transferred to private hospitals and those who could not afford the charges were being left to their own devices. 

KMPDU Western Branch Secretary General Dr Sande Charo said they had instructed their members to stay away from work until their grievances are met.

Charo said as much the strike is national, they are engaging the leadership of the four counties in the region to resolve pending issues.

“Minimal health services are going on in most public facilities because we have nurses and other clinical officers but we are lobbying for discussion with county leadership as we wait for further direction from our union,” said Charo. 

Meanwhile in Uasin Gishu, a section of Kenya Kwanza leaders asked doctors to immediately stop their strike and report back to work immediately.

Speaking during the launch of bursary disbursement at Chepkigen Primary School in Soy, the leaders said the government was making strides towards economic recovery and that the strike would only serve to slow the gains.

MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), David Kiplagat (Soy) and Julius Rutto (Kesses) said patients in public hospitals have been left stranded since th strike began on Thursday.

The leaders suggested that the health sector be transferred back to the national government should the countis fail to tackle the doctors’ grievances. 

[Reports by Benard Lusigi and Mary Imenza in Kakamega and Titus Too in Eldoret]

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