Lamu county government clashes with doctors' union over mass resignation of doctors
By Philip Mwakio and Paul Gitau
| February 10th 2015
LAMU: The Lamu county government has accused the Kenya Medical and Dental Practitioners Union KMDPU of unleashing anarchy in the medical sector in Lamu after it supported the resignation of five doctors from two key public hospitals there.
An official of the county government claimed Tuesday that the five doctors resigned abruptly from hospitals and exposed 25 patients, including women in labour pains in critical health as the attacks between the two sides escalated. The claims of abandonment could not be confirmed, independently.
But Dr Mbwana Kombo who is the county executive committee member in charge of health admitted that the aggrieved doctors earned a hardship allowance of Sh600 monthly but reasoned the amount was inherited from the national government.
Last week five doctors resigned from Mpeketoni sub-county and King Fahad county hospital claiming discrimination, lack of housing, water and equipment at these hospitals. They accused the county government of open hostility and humiliation and on Saturday KMPDU officials led by the union's Secretary General Dr Ouma Oluga threatened to declare the Lamu county government as a hostile employer as they paraded some of the doctors who resigned.
Tuesday the Lamu county executive committee member in charge of Dr Mbwana Kombo accused the union of reckless talk and claimed the doctors who resigned abandoned patients in danger.
Dr Kombo argued that Dr Oluga's threats and the doctors' resignation threatens the medical sector in Lamu County.
"That is like declaring a death sentence to the people of Lamu," he said who also claimed that the doctors who left the public service left when the county administration was trying to solve their grievances.
"What annoyed us is how all the five doctors resigned at the same time and left over 25 patients who were critically ill in the wards," Dr Kombo said and denied the five doctors’ claim last week that they slept at matron's quarters and bathed in ward toilets.
Dr Kombo claimed a doctor, allegedly, recalled from leave and another who has not resigned are managing the crisis occasioned by the mass resignation.
On Saturday KMPDU declared Lamu county government hostile to doctors deployed there.
"Lamu County government who is the employer in this case has proved to be hostile to doctors. If a county is declared hostile to workers they may never be able to employ again," said Dr Oluga.
''What we are saying is that in essence no single doctor deserves to offer their selfless and much needed service to an employer that has shown hostility to doctors,'' Dr Oluga said.
Dr Zein Abdulaziz resigned on Friday following four resignations early last week. Before he left Dr Abdulaziz was the only remaining doctor at the King Fahad county hospital after colleagues left on Tuesday last week.
Now King Fahad County Hospital on Lamu Island has no doctor and only one doctor remains in the public hospital sector and is based at Mpeketoni sub county hospital on the Lamu mainland and officials are contemplating to transferring him to the County hospital to take charge.
On Tuesday last week the medical superintendent Dulkiflins Franklins, Dr Brian Ngala Mwendwa, Timamy Al-alawi and Barbra Mutimos resigned from King Fahad and Mpeketoni hospitals citing, low pay and frustration from the county government.
On Thursday last week Dr Kombo denounced the resignations as hasty and ill timed claiming the county administration was committed to solving their grievances and was reviewing their employment terms alongside those of dentists, clinical officers and laboratory technicians.
"We were almost effecting the increments that the doctors are demanding. Their original files are still in Nairobi with the ministry of health and we were just working with skeleton files," said Kombo.
He said that the doctors will lose all their benefits and should have just asked for transfer to other counties if they felt they cannot work in Lamu instead of resigning.
"The doctors will also have to pay us their one month salary as they did not give a one month notice [before resigning] as required by law," Kombo said.
He however downplayed claims that services will be affected saying they are currently looking for doctors who will be paid as casual employees while awaiting the employment board to advertise for new doctors.
On Saturday the doctors' union warned county governments who have not paid doctors their January salaries by today with unspecified consequences.
KMPDU national top officials said that five doctors resigned after being frustrated by the county government adding that it will be extremely hard for the remaining doctor to cope with the workload.
''It is sad to note that doctors in Lamu have been neglected by the same county government they have diligently served,'' Dr Oluga said.
Dr Dhukifl Franklinn, who had worked as the Medical Superintendent at the Lamu district hospital for four years said the aggrieved doctors hold no grudge against Lamu residents but felt dejected by alleged mistreatment by the county government.
'' Doctors who served in Lamu during and after the Mpeketoni attacks are real unsung heroes. We worked in rotations to try and save the lives of many people who had been badly injured,'' he said.
He claimed that doctors had no houses and slept at the matron's office and bathed in theatre toilets adding that besides low pay they were being paid only Sh600 hardship allowance per month.
Dr Bryan Ngala Mwendwa accused the county government of neglecting doctors and taking their services for granted despite braving insecurity and recent violence in Lamu.
''We operated day and night and had to brave the curfew period imposed by the government to attend to our calling and operated in institutions that did not have living quarters . We are not greedy but just want modest compensation,'' Dr Mwendwa said.
Dr Oluga said these doctors had put their lives at risk and worked diligently without support from the county government.
'' It is this kind of trauma and negative attitude to handling doctors in many other counties that have led to the resignations in Lamu County,'' he said.
Oluga who was flanked by the KMPDU national chairman, Dr Oroko Samuel demanded that Lamu county government must pay the arrears of salaries and promotions due to doctors who served in the county despite their resignation.
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