Government moves in to avert doctors' strike that starts soon

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) secretary general Davji Atellah (centre) flanked by other doctors during the seventh special delegates conference in November 2022. [Harun Wathari Standard]

Doctors countrywide will go on strike from December 28, 2022 after the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) declared a 30-day strike notice on November 28.

The KMPDU says the industrial action is as a result of the government's failure to honour a July 2017 collective bargaining agreement.

Basic salary adjustments, creation of call rooms, posting of medical interns, employment of more doctors and provision of working tools are among the unmet grievances highlighted by the KMPDU.

The Ministry of Labour says it has received the industrial action notice.

The ministry has urged the doctors to rescind their decision to allow for negotiations.

"After a careful review of the [KMPDU] letter, it has been noted the intended withdrawal of labour is being contemplated by members who are involved in the provision of service of an essential nature and it is, therefore, in the public interest for the Cabinet Secretary [for Labour Florence Bore] to urgently intervene to avert the union's threatened strike," the Commissioner for Labour, through J.N. Mwanzia, said in a letter to CS Bore, and copied to Health CS Susan Nakhumicha and all the 47 county governments.

"Towards this end, and in accordance with Section 70(1) of the Labour Relations Act 2007, Kisurulia Kuloba, the Chief Industrial Relations Officer, has been appointed to act as the conciliator in the apprehended dispute.

"All parties are requested to submit written memorandum in respect to the disputed issues and cooperate with the conciliator in his efforts to resolve it," said the Commissioner for Labour.

Justifying their decision for industrial action, KMPDU Secretary-General Dr Davji Bhimji Atellah said on November 26, 2022 that the stakeholders involved in the signing of the 2017-2021 CBA had failed to implement issues that they had raised.

"Kenya seems to have assumed a policy of train and dump," Dr Bhimji said.

He further said medical training facilities in Kenya have increased, with nine universities offering medicine courses, yet the number of graduate doctors being absorbed by the government remains low.

According to Bhimji, several doctors have since retired or resigned, but are yet to be replaced.

Dr Bhimji also called on the national government to increase its budgetary allocation to the Health sector, saying that increased funds would help address many issues that cause disharmony between healthcare workers and counties.

According to the KMPDU Secretary-General, the management and governance structure of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) also needs an overhaul.

Bhimji added that KMPDU wants to see stability at the national insurer, saying the NHIF will serve Kenyans better if its stability is guaranteed.