19 September 2012

Kenya: Striking Doctors Have Till Friday

THE Kenyatta National Hospital management has appealed to striking doctors to resume duty work to end the suffering of patients. The doctors have until Friday to call off the strike before the management can engage them in talks on their concerns.

Today, the doctors who have been on strike for the last one week will march from KNH to Harambee House to appeal to President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to address their concerns.

Yesterday, KNH refuted claims that consultants had teamed up with the doctors in the strike that has paralysed operations in public hospitals. Speaking after a four-hour consultative meeting, KNH chief executive officer Richard Lesiyampe said the consultants are still on duty. "Consultants have not been on strike, and will not join the strike as called upon by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union. They will continue to provide healthcare services to the patients," he said.

Lesiyampe urged the registrars to dialogue and end the three-week stalemate. He assured those registrars willing to resume duty that their suspension will be lifted to pave way for negotiations and their continued stay in the KNH houses. "KNH is willing to facilitate the smooth come-back of the doctors and we can assure them that the government is willing to reinstate them," said Lesiyampe.

Among key deliberations in yesterday's meeting was the formation of a mediation team of senior consultants to ensure the return of the registrars to work. Lesiyampe said he will lead a team to the Medical Services ministry for talks on the registrars grievances including the practicing rights, salaries and "withdrawal of notice to vacate the KNH houses for the doctors and registrars who will report back on duty".

He refuted claims that operations had stalled at KNH saying more than the 1,500 patients are admitted in different wards are being attended to. "It is not true that our patients are being turned away as we are receiving even referral cases and conducting surgeries," he said. On September 4, minister Anyang' Nyong'o suspended 393 KNH registrars for absenteeism, and revoked an earlier training contract that had been signed between the referral health facility and University of Nairobi.

They had downed their tools to compel the government to pay them a monthly stipend of Sh92,000 for their services; a demand that the government refuted, leading to a standoff that later resulted in the current status. They had further complained about poor working conditions, failure by the government to implement a return-to-work formula that had ended an earlier strike, and laxity in responding to growing challenges of the health sector.

Rebuffing their demands for payment then, Nyong'o said it was not the government's responsibility to compensate the privately sponsored doctors under specialised training, a stand that was repeated yesterday by Lesiyampe who reiterated that KNH cannot contravene government's position.

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