Judge orders government to begin negotiations with doctors

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The court has ordered the national government and counties not to take disciplinary action against striking doctors in an effort to create a level playing field for negotiations.

 Additionally, Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELRC) Judge Byrum Ongaya ordered the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU) to release at least two consultants and two medics per every cadre for all Level Three to Five hospitals.

He also directed that during negotiations, there should be a minimum of 30 consultants, 50 medical officers, 10 pharmacists, and three dentists at national referral hospitals.

 Specifically, at Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital, there should be at least 10 consultants, three medical officers, three pharmacists, and three dentists. The National Spinal Injury Hospital will have an equal number of consultants as Mathari, three pharmacists, and one dentist.

The government and counties had been demanding that doctors call off the strike as a precondition for negotiations. They were asking for a minimum of 75% of medical practitioners to return to work.

However, the doctors' union informed the court that while they were willing to negotiate and had a return-to-work formula, employers had already initiated disciplinary processes against their members. They requested that negotiations should have no conditions.

Justice Ongaya instructed the parties to meet by Friday to negotiate a return-to-work formula. He also ordered them to continue discussing the 2024-2025 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and the minimum work requirements during strikes.

Doctors argued that referral hospitals were hiring doctors on contracts against the 2017 CBA and in a discriminatory manner. They also claimed that they had not received their full basic pay as agreed with the national and county governments.

On the other hand, employers argued that they were constrained as doctors continued to defy court orders regarding the strike. The Attorney General, Justin Muturi, contended that doctors needed to end the strike before the government and counties would consider meeting them after 24 hours.

KMPDU stated that they were willing to meet with employers as long as none of their members faced victimization.

Doctors are demanding Sh1.1 billion in basic salary arrears owed by counties and the employment of all unemployed doctors due to 11 grievances.

The dispute between doctors and the Ministry of Health and county governments revolves around the shifting implementation of the 2017/2022 CBA and unpaid debts by the counties.

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha claimed that the agreement between doctors and employers was signed by her predecessor.

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