14 December 2013

Kenya: Health Workers Strike Enters Its Fifth Day

Doctors and nurses yesterday said they will carry on with their strike even as governors accused them of trying to evade close supervision.

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union secretary general Sultani Matendechero said they will not call off the strike, which entered its fifth day yesterday, until their demand to have devolution of health services properly handled is met.

"As we speak now, none of our demands have been met by the government, and no efforts has been put forward for us to negotiate on this matter so as we can end the stalemate. As far as we concerned we are on strike until (the) government puts its acts together," he said on the phone yesterday.

Matendechero said medics are not opposed to devolution of health services to the counties, but are against having the services rolled out without clear laid down guidelines. The medics went on strike on Tuesday.

They want their salaries paid by the national government which insist that they should be paid by the counties as outlined in the constitution.

"We want devolution of health services to be anchored on the enactment of a healthy policy as provided in the constitution to avoid confusion as what we are witnessing today," Matendechero said.

He denied that the health workers are opposed to devolution as it will expose them to more supervision, which will block them from running private clinics at the expense of public health facilities.

However, a governor said doctors and nurses are scared of thorough supervision because they are notorious for moonlighting. Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago has ordered the closure of private clinics run by striking government doctors and nurses. He said the medics are boycotting work in public hospitals to exploit patients at their private clinics.

Mandago said the governors are ready to dialogue with the health workers to end the strike, but the medics are pushing for unconstitutional demands.

"There is now way we can allow them to go on strike so that they operate private clinics and get money while our people die," he said during Kenya@50 celebrations in Eldoret town on Thursday.

"If they want to continue being ghost workers while they receive public money as salaries for not working that will not happen here," he said.

Speaking in Mombasa on Thursday, Governor Hassan Joho said counties have the capacity to manage the health docket. He said the medics demands are unjustified and uncalled for.

"We will not allow people to kill the smooth transition to the county government because some people think we are not able," he said. Joho has recalled all retired nurses and doctors back to work.

However, Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary general Seth Panyako said the recruitment of new workers is a ploy by the governors to intimidate the striking workers.

"We are not moved by such threats. Even if they want to replace all the entire staff that are on strike they cannot because, one we are not employees of the county government and secondly, there are no enough nurses out there that can be used as a replacement," he said on the phone on Thursday.

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