Mercury rises as strike paralyses Kenya health sector


Kenya doctors on strike

from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
Kenya Bureau
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – AN angry showdown has ensued between police and straining medical doctors in Kenya

The latter have been on a strike for a month, demanding better remuneration and improved working conditions.

They downed their white coats, stethoscopes and syringes on March 14 following a collapse in negotiations with an unbudging government.

There is no end in sight to the fallout. Tempers are flaring. Tensions are deteriorating.

It is the worst such crisis in the sector in seven years.

Police have denounced the ongoing protests as illegal and have expressed disquiet at the unprecedented conduct of demonstrators. This is seen as a move by the government to quash the protests.

The law enforcers lamented that some medical professionals involved in the strike were at times lying on the streets and obstructing highways as well as obstructing free movement of people and vehicles.

Others are allegedly blowing whistles and “vuvuzelas” at health centres, thus causing discomfort to patients and the general public.

Originating from South Africa and banned in some parts of the world, the vuvuzela is a blown horn that produces a loud monotone.

Famous for mobilising sports followers at stadia, it is elswehere infamous for the potential to cause hearing damage.

“The medics have become a public nuisance,” Japhet Koome, Inspector-General of the National Police Service, bashed.

He said the medical professionals continue demonstrations without notifying the police, as per law.

In the interest of national security, Koome said, therefore, all respective Police Commanders had been instructed to deal with such situations “firmly and decisively in accordance with the law.”

“We wish to caution all doctors against infringing on the rights of others while demonstrating and that their efforts to disrupt smooth operations of hospitals will not be tolerated,” he said.

The police chief added, “We wish to assure the public that our country is safe and that the National Police Service remains committed to maintaining law and order.”

Major unions such as the Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, National Union of Nurses, National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers, Union of Clinical Officers, Union of Nutritionists and Dietitians Union of Pharmaceutical Technologists and specialist doctors have joined the strike.

Abi Mwachi, chairperson of the Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, said the union was concerned at the statement by the police chief.

“This disturbing development only serves to aggravate an already delicate situation in Kenya,” he said.

Mwachi said the utterances presented a threat to the negotiations with the government and contravened the charter by the International Labour Organisation.

Medical service delays are being reported nationwide, including the closure of emergency services at the National Referral Hospital. It recently fired over 100 striking doctors

The Kenya Medical Association has meanwhile threatened to mobilise health workers in private hospitals to withdraw services in the coming days and ongoing strike.

Disruptions to healthcare services are forecast to continue near hospitals, medical facilities and government buildings, possibly affecting emergency services, until the government meets the union’s demand.

“Occasional scuffles with security services are possible should protests occur,” warned a security expert.

President William Ruto, in power since 2022, has told the striking doctors his administration has no money to increase salaries.

“We cannot borrow money to pay salaries,” he is quoted.

Doctors went on strike for 100 days in 2017, grinding the public health sector to a standstill.

A collective bargaining agreement brought the strike to an end.

Unions accuse Ruto’s government of breaching the agreement.

– CAJ News

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