Efforts to end the doctors strike have started with Medical Services Minister Anyang' Nyong'o finally meeting with officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU).
The meeting however came hours after Nyong'o advertised the jobs of 2,000 doctors and clinical officers in the local dailies.
KMPDU chairman Victor Ng'ani described the meeting held on Thursday morning as a step in the right direction since no government official had met them despite their efforts to engage them.
"We have managed to meet the minister this morning and we laid down our issues. Finally he gave us audience and we have made a bit of progress. The mood and tone of the meeting was very encouraging. It was a departure from the past when we did not have much progress in terms of dialogue. Now that there is understanding of what the problems are, we are optimistic that maybe we could see concessions from the government," he said.
However, it is too early to tell. We are not going to accede to something that we have not seen. So at a point that the ministry will have taken a position acceptable to us, then we may actually talk of progress. As of now, the progress is that we are talking."
Ng'ani said that they presented their grievances to the minister and were expecting to meet him later in the day.
"We have also noted that the minister has made an announcement seeking to recruit doctors. We are looking with keen interest on where they are going to get the doctors from. Unless they are talking of witchdoctors, I do not know where they are going to get 2,000 doctors within a short period of time," he stated.
The doctors union also held a Special Delegates Conference to discuss their future and whether to review their demands.
"What we are going to look at is what resolutions we can come up with the items that we raised. Now there is a better understanding of what we are talking about as a union and what their concerns are and now there is dialogue. We can actually dialogue about these issues and come up with a solution."
In the meantime, Labour Minister John Munyes has come to the defence of the Medical Services Minister saying that the strike should not be politicized as Nyong'o gets directions from the Treasury and the Cabinet.
Munyes who spoke at Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu after the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli lashed out at Nyong'o over the strike, stated that dialogue should be given a chance.
"Now there is a better understanding of what we are talking about as a union and what their concerns are and now there is dialogue. We can actually dialogue about these issues and come up with a solution"
"This matter went above the minister and was brought to the sub-Cabinet committee. Maybe it is the way he is putting it but the decision is being made by so many people and not the professor as many people think. I want to really support him because if he goes to cabinet and is told there is no money, he falls back to the ground and then he is blamed," he said.
He called upon the doctors to resume duty and give room for consultation next week with relevant authorities to address their grievances.
Atwoli had earlier hinted that ODM is bound to lose a lot of votes if Nyong'o goes ahead and sacks the striking doctors.
"COTU supports doctors. These are our sons and daughters. We need to sit down with them. Even if it is now, Anyang' Nyong'o should be telling them 'let us form a new government. Come with us, you will be our first priority doctors. He should be attracting professionals other than sacking them," he said.