Ruto remains mute as healthcare crisis worsens

Medical graduates protested 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 internship placement. [Hilda Otieno, Standard]

Questions are being asked as to why President William Ruto has maintained studious silence as the ongoing medics strike gets more intense after clinical officers downed tools yesterday.

The strike has paralysed services in public health institutions across the country despite the President's chief of staff statement at a meeting 10 days ago that was expected to thaw the tensions between medics and the parent ministry.

The president, who directed the Head of Public Service Felix Koskei to seek a solution to the strike, has been silent as Kenyans suffer.

His silence on matters of health contradicts his style since taking office. He has been making numerous public declarations during his engagements, the most recent being the just-ended World Championship Rally in Naivasha.

As continued silence emanates from the highest office in the land, government officials, governors and medics are trading verbal exchanges.

Last week, the government side, which is expected to find solutions to the running problem, walked out of the negotiation table.

The walkout was led by  Deputy Head of Public Service Josphat Nanok. He had directed doctors to call off the strike to allow for negotiations.

“We have asked the union anytime between now and April 1, that if they comply with the ruling and lift the strike, or suspend it, then we will proceed to a meeting,” said Nanok last week.

Nanok’s flopped meeting was the second one to be convened. The first meeting was convened by Koskei on March 21, that ran up to midnight without a deal. 

A senior government official, who is part of the team that took part in the talks, said the committee consists of all government team under Public Service.

Committee spokesperson

The source who requested not to be named said the spokesperson of the talks committee is Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha.

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union Deputy Secretary General Dennis Miskella said on March 21, a subcommittee was established whose role was to look through the 19 issues raised by doctors.

The Wednesday meeting was to indicate demands that would be met in the current and next financial year.

“Nanok came to a meeting with issues that were not making sense," Miskellah told The Standard. "He accused doctors of ignoring court orders, without giving any clarity”.

Miskellah said according to a court directive, all the 47 governors were expected to attend the meeting, but only four turned up.

Employment and Labour Relations Court will convene tomorrow; which stakeholders presume could be the only solution left amid the running stalemate.

The court had ordered respective ministries to find an amicable solution to issues affecting doctors.

According to a court order issued on March 15, 2024, respective ministries were directed to seek and comprehensively address all grievances leading to the strike.

Health being a devolved function, the Council of Governors from all 47 counties were also directed to be part of the reconciliation and negotiation committee.

Doctors went on strike on March 15, demanding implementation of the 2017 CBA.

Efforts to have doctors back to work have remained unfruitful, forcing the President's office to establish a committee whose chair is Linus Kariuki from the Office of Labour.

Key demands

During the first meeting convened at KICC on March 21, Kariuki said the issues tabled by KMPDU were 19, and as a result, a reconciliation committee was appointed by CS Labour Florence Bore.

Among issues raised by doctors include failure to provide comprehensive medical cover, perennial delay and general mismanagement of internship programme.

Other issues raised include the failure to employ more doctors and, failure to provide a training budget for post-graduate doctors from 2018.

Last week, the Council of Governors held a crisis meeting and directed striking doctors to obey court orders.

CoG chairperson Anne Waiguru also called on the government to implement the stalled 2017 CBA under contention as a way of unlocking the impasse.

KMPDU Secretary General Dr Davji Atellah has accused the government of being non-committal in solving the crisis.

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