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Patients Left Unattended As Kenyan Public Hospital Doctors Commence Nationwide Strike

Kenyan Doctors say their ongoing strike is a result of government’s failure to fulfil commitments outlined in 2017.

Doctors at Kenya’s public hospitals initiated a nationwide strike on Thursday, citing the government’s failure to fulfil commitments outlined in a collective bargaining agreement signed in 2017 following a prolonged 100-day strike that resulted in fatalities due to lack of medical care.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) declared the strike to demand comprehensive medical cover for doctors and to protest the government’s failure to assign 1,200 medical interns.

The secretary-general of KMPDU, Dr. Davji Bhimji, disclosed that despite a labour court order urging the union to postpone the strike for negotiations with the government, approximately 4,000 doctors participated in the strike.

The union’s deputy secretary-general, Dr. Dennis Miskellah, declared the intention to disregard the court order, citing the government’s prior dismissal of three court orders mandating an increase in basic pay for doctors and the reinstatement of suspended doctors.

Highlighting the significance of medical interns, who constitute 27% of the workforce in Kenya’s public hospitals, Miskellah emphasized that their absence results in more patients being turned away from hospitals. Nevertheless, some doctors have remained on duty, particularly in intensive care units, to prevent patient fatalities.

During an interview with leading broadcaster Citizen TV, Miskellah underscored the dire circumstances faced by doctors, including work-related frustration leading to suicides and the necessity for some to resort to fundraising for medical treatment due to insufficient health coverage.

The strike’s repercussions reverberated across the nation, with numerous patients left unattended or denied access to hospitals throughout Kenya.

Pauline Wanjiru shared her experience of being turned away from a hospital in Kakamega county in Western Kenya when seeking treatment for her 12-year-old son’s broken leg, which had become infected.

In 2017, public hospital doctors in Kenya embarked on the longest strike in the country’s history, lasting 100 days. Their demands included improved wages, restoration of dilapidated public health facilities, and continuous training and hiring of doctors to address a severe shortage of healthcare professionals.

During the 2017 strike, public doctors, who undergo six years of university training, were earning basic salaries ranging from $400 to $850 per month, similar to the earnings of some police officers who undergo only six months of training.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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