The government has stopped salaries for striking doctors.
Medical Services minister Anyang' Nyong'o made the announcement after touring Kenyatta National Hospital's Pediatrician and Maternity wards. The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union chairman, Victor Ng'ani, said they will contest the move in a court of law.
He said the move is aimed at intimidating their members to resume work before their demands are met. "The strike is still on, and we will not be intimidated as our demands are genuine. They were agreed on by both parties," Ng'ani said. The doctors' strike has entered week three as patients continue to bear the brunt.
Nyong'o said the ministry took the move because the strike is in contempt of court. "There is need to perform our duties according to the constitutional provisions," he said and told the doctors to return to work. "Some doctors have already heeded call and have already reported back. I call on others to follow suit," Nyongo said.
Doctors downed their tools three weeks ago to petition the government to implement the RTWF and operationalise recommendations that were highlighted by the Musyimi task force, which had been formed to research and give feedback on how the health sector can be improved.
While commending doctors who who refused to join their colleagues in the strike, Nyong'o said services at KNH are going on. He said the hospital "has never closed its doors, and will not close them." "I wish to express my sincere appreciation to all doctors from KNH and University of Nairobi for their patriotism and dignity of life by choosing not to engage in an illegal strike," he said.
Nyong'o wondered how KMPDU members could defy the court orders, which compelled the two aggrieved parties to engage in dialogue, with the aim of ending the stalemate. He ruled out any possibility of negotiations outside courts, saying the matter has since been forwarded to another level: "I fought so hard for this constitution and will not be party to anybody who defies it, let us address our grievances within the law."
He maintained the strong position that the state has taken on privately sponsored trainee doctors, also referred as registrars, and usurped that there is no budget allocation for their payment. The registrars have been demanding a monthly stipend of sh92,000 from government, which they say was part of the agreement that ended last December's strike.
However the government has been adamant, and insisted that the call was not within its mandate. "They [registrars] are supposed to be facilitated by their sponsors." Nyong'o further clarified that the sh1.9 billion that was released by Treasury last week was part of last year's deal, and was supposed to facilitate the health workers from KNH and their counterparts from the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.