Lab staff issue notice as doctors' strike bites

Medical graduates protest outside the Nakuru County Referral Hospital-Annex, and later held a peaceful demonstration in the streets of Nakuru City, over a raft of issues including delay in interneship placement. [Hilda Otieno, Standard]

The turbulence in the health sector is set to be aggravated by the medical technologists, who have issued a seven-day strike notice.

In the notice issued on Tuesday, the Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO) say both the National and County governments have failed to establish a Recognition Agreement to ensure the inclusion of all Universal Health Coverage (UHC) personnel.

This is the latest after the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers issued a similar notice on Sunday.

The lab workers union’s demands to the government include confirming UHC workers, COVID-19 Health Emergency Response Program (CHERP) participants, UHC interns, National TB and Lung Diseases Program (NTLD-P) Global Fund Employees contracts to be employed on permanent and pensionable terms.

 They are also seeking recognition of Medical Laboratory Professionals within the healthcare system and provision of comprehensive health insurance.

Speaking to the press at the union’s headquarters in Nairobi, KNUMLO’s National Secretary-General, Pius Nyakundi said, “We submitted a Recognition Agreement request in 2021, today is 2024. We did a follow up letter last year July to the ministry and to date it’s unfortunate they have never responded back”.

He added, "On 5th of December 2023, we requested them to sign the agreement, so that we can be at par with other colleagues who the government is currently is engaging in signing Collective Bargaining Agreement.”

He also criticized the Ministry of Health for failing to engage them.

“We take offense because this is discriminating the medical laboratory professionals while giving the other colleagues in other unions the upper hand in terms of negotiating for their rights and welfare”, said Nyakundi.

The union is also pushing for the hiring of 10,000 more professionals to address staffing shortages.

The lab technologists are also demanding clear directives on Health Risk Allowance for Degree Holders from the Ministry of Health and Public Service Commission; and the appointment of qualified, registered, and licensed Medical Laboratory Officers.  Further, they want revocation of appointment of unqualified personnel.

Doctors’ strikes continue to bite as patients suffer

And as the doctors trike continues to bit, services in Nakuru County were paralyzed after intern doctors took to the streets on Tuesday.

The placard-waving protestors began their demonstration outside the Nakuru County Referral Hospital-Annex before they made their way into the city’s streets.

They listed a total of eight demands that they want the national government through the Ministry of Health and county governments to address.

Services at most of the public health facilities were paralyzed for the better part of the day as some patients were forced to seek services in private health facilities.

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU)- South Rift branch representative Stephen Omondi said members are demanding immediate posting of  medical interns to the right job group and implementation of the basic salary demand contained in the Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA).

He said they were also seeking comprehensive medical cover, post-graduate training, and employment of over 50,000 doctors.

The protesting doctors want postgraduate doctors paid and given improved terms of engagement

They took issue with the Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha for allegedly addressing them through political rallies.

“As doctors, we do not demean ourselves for political rhetoric. No amount of intimidation will stop us. We will be on strike for 100 days for the CBA,” Dr Omondi said.

He added: “The minister and those in government are acting like they do not understand this issue; we will continue with the strike.”

To governors, the striking doctors warned them against victimizing doctors and failing to pay salary arrears.

“Those doctors in counties should join us so that the money is released from the treasury,” he said.

In Western, nurses and clinical officers continued to offer services in key medical facilities including Kakamega, Busia, Vihiga, and Bungoma Referral Hospitals despite the ongoing doctors strike.

A spot check at public health facilities across the region showed a small number of patients walking in and out of the hospitals.

A nurse at the Kakamega County General Hospital confided that only patients in need of specialized treatment were being referred elsewhere because doctors have kept off the facility since the beginning of their strike.

Speaking in Murang’a on Monday during the national World Tuberculosis Day, Nakhumicha said the government was ready to engage doctors and agree on a return-to-work formula.

The Cabinet Secretary said it was important for the government to deal with concerns raised by the striking doctors.

She indicated that her Ministry had issued posting letters to Clinical interns and vowed to ensure the doctors strike was resolved amicably.

Nakhumicha said other cadres will be issued with their internship posting letters which is among issues raised by the striking doctors.

Additional reporting By Boniface Gikandi and Jackline Inyanji