Two senators from the Opposition will on Thursday convene a meeting bringing together the doctors’ union and the Health ministry to discuss how to end the strike now in its 43rd day.
Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar Hassan and his Makueni counterpart Mutula Kilonzo Jr, both from the Wiper Democratic Movement, addressed journalists at Serena Hotel in Nairobi where they described the ongoing strike as a national health crisis.
They said they would bring diverse voices together to save Kenya’s poor, who they said were had been hit hardest.
“We will be bringing together all parties on Thursday, including chairpersons of various committees, the ministry of Health and the doctors as well as other stakeholders, so we end the health crisis,” Senator Hassan said on Sunday in Nairobi.
“The way to end the strike will be negotiations not arm-twisting and intimidation and thus no county government should threaten or purport to sack its doctors. Where will you get their replacements?” said the senator.
The doctors two weeks ago rejected a government offer of a 40 per cent increase in salaries and other benefits, such as mortgage and car loans.
EMPLOY 1,200 DOCTORS
The doctors are insisting on the implementation of a June 27, 2013 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that they signed with the ministry of Health.
The CBA covered a spectrum of issues, including a review of job groups, promotions, deployment and transfer of medical officers, working hours and remuneration.
In particular, the CBA directly addressed understaffing, with the ministry urged to hire at least 1,200 doctors per year for the next four years to reduce the doctor-patient ratio, which currently stands at one doctor to 16,000 Kenyans.
However, the CBA was not registered by the government in court within 14 days of the deal, as required by law. Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials said they trusted their employer to fulfil its obligation as provided in the Labour Relations Act with regard to such agreements.
Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu called for the involvement of the Council of Governors in any further agreements as nearly 90 per cent of doctors worked under county governments.
ENGAGE DOCTORS DIRECTLY
In a full-page advert in the Sunday Nation, the doctors called on the government to cease announcing offers through the media but instead engage them directly, saying they were willing to negotiate.
The two senators, who stood in solidarity with the doctors, blamed President Uhuru Kenyatta and governors for failing to end the strike and for causing deaths and suffering.
Mr Kilonzo said he was ready to offer free legal services to union officials to avert the possibility of imprisonment on account of contempt of court.
“Parties have acted in bad faith, they have demonised doctors and they are threatening to jail them. Doctors are simply saying that they should be paid. The CBA should be registered in court as an exhibition of good faith,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Council of Governors insisted that striking doctors would face disciplinary action if they failed to return to work on Monday.
Council chairman Peter Munya accused the doctors of selfishness for failing to return to work even after they were offered a 40 per cent pay increase.
Speaking in Embu town, Mr Munya said many doctors were ready to return to work but their union, KMPDU, was stopping them.
He said governors were ready to replace the striking doctors, saying the nearly Sh400,000 starting salary doctors are demanding was untenable under the prevailing economy.
“Under the new deal, interns will earn Sh199,000. They want to be paid Sh400,000 per month. Even lawyers who go for pupillage are not paid anything,” said Mr Munya.
Mr Munya said many doctors were opposed to new stringent supervisory measures that make it difficult for those who run private clinics to abscond duty.