Governor Ottichilo revokes over 400 show cause letters, reinstates two top doctors

When Vihiga County referral health workers addressed the media in December 2019 demanding their eight-month salary arrears from the county government. [File, Standard]

Healthcare workers in Vihiga County have been ordered to return to work Monday after the cabinet revoked all disciplinary cases against them.

Health workers had downed tools for 56 days disrupting operations in public hospitals across the county.

This forced the county government through a cabinet resolution to start punishing all health workers participating in the national strike a move that irked the medics who took to the streets in Mbale town in protest.

Health workers vowed to stay put even after the long-standing national strike came to an end following the signing of a return-to-work formula.

They demanded the county administration to reinstate their colleagues who had been suspended and revoke all the show cause letters issued to the health workers.

The medics complained that they received show cause letters and Vihiga County Referral Hospital (VCRH) medical superintendent Dr Victor Zimbulu and Health Services Director Benjamin Induswe were sanctioned and suspended.

Their demands seem to have been addressed after the cabinet agreed to revoke disciplinary action against the health workers.

On Sunday, Governor Ottichilo said the health workers should stop engaging in sideshows and return to work after the national strike ended last week.

The governor castigated the medics for paralysing health services in the county yet his administration had met most of their demands.

Dr Ottichilo said his administration had implemented the return-to-work formula they signed with the doctors in November 2023 yet they decided to join the strike called by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists' Union (KMPDU) on March 2024.

"What must be of great concern to our people is that our doctors were on strike in November 2023 and after a meeting between their union officials and the executive which I chaired, we signed a Return-to-Work Formula addressing all their concerns and the implementation framework," said Ottichilo.

The governor noted that all the demands by the doctors had been honoured or were in the gradual process of being achieved.

"All the doctors who had been hired on contract had been converted to Permanent and Pensionable terms," said Ottichilo.

He further noted that all those due for promotions and designations were individually receiving corresponding letters from the County Public Service Board.

The governor said six out of 47 doctors were on study leave fully funded by the county government.

The county reports showed that more than 750 health workers had been promoted and designated in April 2024 and were individually receiving their letters from the County Public Service Board at the time they were joining the strike.

"All these records are with our County Public Service Board where our people have a right of access for confirmation. Despite my administration implementing the above, our doctors still went ahead to join the national strike," said Ottichilo.

The medics' decision to engage in the strike left thousands of residents suffering as they went without healthcare services for almost two months.

It was due to the healthcare workers' decision to stay away that the Ottichilo-led cabinet decided to suspend two officers in charge of health service management in the county and at the referral hospital with 27 other doctors recommended for suspension.

Additionally, over 400 other health workers were served with show-cause letters. 

"I believe with this latest development, it would be against common sense to continue the hands-on measures that were being pursued and which shall only impede the resumption of health service delivery in the county, and implementation of the measures agreed on, not only for doctors but for all our health workers which were on course before the latest interruption," said Ottichilo.

He invited all the health workers through their unions on round table discussions on how to better the health service delivery in the county.

Medics who participated in the strike are members of KMPDU, Kenya National Union of Nurses, Kenya Union of Clinical Officers and Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers.

Earlier, KMPDU Vihiga branch representative Dr Clarence Eboso took issue with the executive for victimising the doctors.