31 August 2012

Kenya: Go Back to Work, Nyong'o Tells Doctors

MEDICAL Services minister Anyang' Nyong'o is calling on striking Kenyatta National Hospital doctors to resume work. Nyong'o says the government is in the process of reviewing the number of trainee doctors needed with the aim of cutting it down.

Over 400 trainee doctors (registrars) and interns from KNH and Mathare Mental Hospital downed their tools Monday, to protest government's laxity to implement a return-to-work formula that ended last December's strike.

"Let us be civilised and embrace dialogue as opposed to resorting to strike," said Nyong'o, who spoke publicly on the strike for the first time. He was speaking in Nairobi after opening a one-day consultative workshop on Universal Healthcare Financing, which brought together local and international health and finance actors.

The government gave a Sh60,000 payment to the doctors in a bid to woo them back to work, but declined to provide the same to their privately sponsored counterparts.

Nyong'o ruled out any payment to private registrars, saying it was not the government's prerogative to remunerate them. The Kenya Medical Pharmacists and Dentists Union, which called for the strike has stood its ground to push on with the strike, until when the government will give in to its demands. While appealing for understanding, Nyong'o told doctors to end the stalemate and alleviate the suffering of patients.

"It is inconveniencing them, as most services are at a standstill due to their action," he said and regretted the delay for service provision that had been occasioned by the strike.

Last year, the government heeded to the union's demand to pay the doctors an extraneous allowance of Sh92,000 to cater for their basic needs, but has not operationalised the agreement, eight months since its signing. The registrars are also demanding the disbursement of sh200 million which was released by treasury to cater for their fees.

Efforts to get a comment from KMPDU top brass officials bore no fruits, as they were reported to be holed up in a day-long meeting to discuss their next plan of action. There have been claims by the officials of alleged intimidation and sacking threats from senior directors from KNH and Medical Services ministry if they fail to resume operations.

"We are calling on senior officials who are threatening interns to stop it, as we shall be compelled to sue them, the status quo still remains," secretary general, Were Onyino said on Wednesday. The strike has affected normal operations at Kenya's biggest referral facility, with some departments attending to emergency cases only.

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