Medics' unions defy Koome, vow to hold weekly protests

Joint Health Workers Unions led by KMPDU SG Davji Artella and Clinical Officers Chairman Peter Wachira at a press conference where they announced second edition of the Union strike dismissing government threats on Monday, April, 15, 2024. [Samson Wire Standard]

Doctors and clinical officers unions have announced joint weekly protests to push for their demands.

Speaking to the press in Nairobi yesterday, three unions, Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO), and the Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO), said the protests, to be held every Tuesday, are  in response to the government’s alleged attempts to suppress the ongoing nationwide healthcare workers strike.

The unions reaffirmed the legality and necessity of their protests, directly challenging claims made by the Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome.

“The IG’s assertion concerning the demonstrations lacks merit. Furthermore, the claim that the use of whistles and vuvuzelas during demonstrations constitutes a public nuisance, causing discomfort to patients and disrupting hospital operations, is erroneous,” they said

This comes days after the Inspector General of Police, Japheth Koome, released a statement terming the doctors strike a nuisance, and ordered regional police commanders to deal with such situations firmly.

“In the interest of national security therefore, all respective police commanders have been instructed to deal with such situations firmly and decisively in accordance with the law,” the statement said.

KMPDU Secretary-General Davji Atellah, however, dismissed the police boss’ comments as falsehoods meant to intimidate the doctors’ union to stop demonstrating.

“We’ve already proceeded to court against the defamatory action and statement issued yesterday. We will serve the IG regarding that,” Dr Atellah said.

Return to work

“No amount of threats, intimidation or victimisation will make us suspend this strike. We will have to sit and have a return-to-work agreement that spells out protection for the CBA that was signed,” the KMPDU secretary-general said.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK), Katiba Institute, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and other CSOs are among other bodies which condemned Koome’s Sunday statement. 

Meanwhile, the unions have doubled down on their demands, petitioning President William Ruto to establish a multi-sectoral working team to “comprehensively address the perennial issues in the health sector.”

Elsewhere, doctors in the city of Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, took to the streets in a show of defiance, demanding the implementation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and addressing other major issues. Amidst the crisis, the Office of the Clerk of the Senate has rescheduled an April 10 joint sitting of parliamentary and senate Departmental Committees on Health to April 19.