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Ray of hope as doctors' talks with the government gain momentum

KMPDU Deputy Secretary general Dr Dennis Miskellah (centre) and his collegaues address the media regarding the ongoing doctors' strike at their offices in Nairobi. April 19th,2024 [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

After days of back and forth between the doctors’ union and the government, there seems to a bright spot, as the two sides once again engaged in talks for the better part of yesterday.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) said the two antagonists “made strides in negotiations following a court-mandated meeting aimed at adopting a whole-of-nation approach”.

The meeting, presided over by a judge, saw both parties commit to unconditional dialogue, signaling a potential end to the impasse that continue deepening the crisis in the public health sector.

Speaking on behalf of the union, KMPDU Deputy Secretary-General Dennis Miskellah expressed optimism about the progress made, stating: “We believe that the key and the most important thing is that we are talking. As long as we continue talking, then Kenyans can remain hopeful that sooner than later we will come to a point of convergence.”

The issue of posting of interns, employment conditions for doctors and stipends for postgraduate registrars remain sticky. While no final agreements have been reached, both sides expressed satisfaction with the progress made and pledged to conasolidate their discussions into a unified dialogue.

Ahead of the announcement, a section of the union’s officials led by KMPDU’s Secretary General Davji Atellah met representatives from the Council of Governors (CoG) and the rest, under Miskellah, headed to Health ministry headquarters for a session with officials and CEOs of Level 4 and 5 hospitals.

Notably, Governors emerged with a proactive stance, offering commitments to address immediate concerns within a month.

Miskellah commended the CoG’s commitments, stating: “We are happy counties are hiring doctors. When we go back to work, we will be more than happy to have more helping hands on the table.”

However, Miskellah was quick to state that the two sides have not come to any agreement yet. “Whatever was discussed in both meetings has to be coalesced,” he said. “Nothing can go wrong in this country as long as we are talking.”

Responding to concerns raised by the CoG chairperson on potential ripple effects of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), Miskellah called for equity across all sectors.

“Equity is not about cutting the legs of those who are standing, it’s about uplifting those who are down,” he said.

Despite the progress, the spotlight remains on the commitment of both the government and the union to find common ground. Previous attempts at resolving the deadlock ended in pitfalls, with the two sides accusing each other of sabotaging the efforts.

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