Why some counties are not experiencing the pinch of doctors' strike

Davji Atella, Secretary General of KMPDU leads striking doctors in delivering an address outside Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa's office. [Robert Amalemba, Standard]

Some counties are not feeling the pinch of the ongoing  doctors' strike after it emerged that their doctors are not participating in the strike.

While others have resorted to threats and intimidation in a futile attempt to force doctors back to work, operations in some facilities are going on uninterrupted in some counties.

Interviews with county officials and doctors in Laikipia, Nyandarua, and Uasin Gishu counties established that doctors in the devolved units are not part of the strike.

On the other hand, doctors engaged on contract in several other counties have also not joined their colleagues in the strike. However, officials say they are few and cannot cope with the entire workload.

In Laikipia and Nyandarua county hospitals, normalcy has resumed after doctors agreed to resume work pending the ruling of the court case.

Nyahururu County Referral Hospital CEO Peter Kiptoo told The Saturday Standard that all doctors have been reporting to work since last week.

"We had a meeting with them last week and they all agreed to report back to work. This is as they await the court ruling which will determine their case," he said.

He noted that all the doctors and other medics at the hospitals in Laikipia West were at work and no ugly incident had been reported.

In the neighboring Nyandarua county, the situation was the same.

This is after Governor Kiarie Badilisha held a meeting with the striking medics a week ago.

The director of communications in the governors office Mbugua Muchoki said that the all medics were at work.

"We are awaiting the courts ruling. We had a mutual agreement with them and they are at work," he noted.

In Uasin Gishu, health services have been running smoothly with Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret announcing that it was ready to receive and treat all patients referred to the facility from across the North Rift region and Western Kenya as routine.

Dr Owen Menach, the Acting Director of Clinical Services at MTRH, said the hospital has been honouring agreements signed with the doctors and that their doctors have not gone on strike.

“In as much as there is an ongoing nationwide strike, MTRH Eldoret is operational. We have maintained cordial industrial relations with all the health workers unions and we have addressed the majority of the doctors’ concerns. We have complied with the majority of the Collective Bargain Agreements (CBA) signed with our doctors,” said Dr Menach.

He advised patients seeking medical services to visit the health facility saying that they will be attended to.

“If you take a tour around the facility, you will realize that operations are going on as usual and therefore our patients have no reason to worry,” he added.

At the Uasin Gishu Sub-County Hospital, services have also been running with patients seeking treatment attended to as usual.

“I came here in the morning to have my son treated and I am happy that we found the health workers who treated him and prescribed some medication,” said Salome Owino, a resident of Eldoret town.

However, KMPDU North Rift branch secretary Dr Kamonzi Mulei insisted that all doctors serving public hospitals in the area have joined their colleagues across the country in the strike.

“Our doctors are on strike. You do not expect the management of the hospitals to admit that the doctors have downed their tools. We are talking of clinics, which are not opened and selective surgeries which are not being done,” Dr Mulei claimed.

In Kisumu, Nyeri and Kilifi counties, only doctors on contract have been working as the rest continue with their strike.

Yesterday, Rogers Gona, a patient admitted at the Malindi Sub County Hospital was in distress as he waited to be attended to.

He was involved in an accident at around 11 am on April 10, 2024.

Gona was seen by hospital staff not affected by the strike. “I was involved in an accident in the morning as I was leaving home and broke my leg and I was rushed here. I got all the services including X-Ray but since morning I have been waiting for doctors to fix my leg,” he said.

A source at Malindi Sub-county Hospital who requested anonymity revealed that only 30 patients were being attended to as inpatients but the majority of such cases were being referred to private hospitals.

The hospital has a bed capacity of more than 250 patients but only 30 are occupied due to the strike and the emergency parking areas remain deserted.

“All other services are ongoing but we are also lucky that we have seven doctors employed on contract and they are not part of the strike. It is this team that has helped us manage things,” said the source disclosing that 15 doctors working at the facility had joined the strike.

Kilifi County Chief Officer for Health Dr David Mulewa said that the county had engaged several doctors on contractual terms.

“We have doctors on contract and services are going on smoothly but I cannot tell you how many are on contract,” said Dr Mulewa on phone.

In Nyeri, the devolved unit has managed to keep most health services running albeit at a slow staggered pace.

"We have been working with doctors in the county to meet their needs as employees of the county and for instance, in the case of promotions, we have implemented promotions for health staff as per the collective bargaining agreement between the county and the union," Nyeri Health CEC Dr Joseph Kiragu said.

Report by Daniel Chege, Olivia Odhiambo, Lynn Kolongei, Alexander Chagema, Lydia Nyawira, Amos Kiarie and Nehemiah Okwembah

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