17 February 2017

Kenya: LSK Optimistic of End to Doctors' Strike as Talks Resume

Photo: Tonny Omondi/Daily Nation
Doctors from private hospitals protesting in Kisumu.

A fresh round of talks between doctors and the government is expected to begin Friday after doctors' union officials requested a day to relax following their release from prison on Wednesday.

It is expected that the mediation will be concluded in seven days as per the Court of Appeal order.

The new panel will be led by a team from the Law Society of Kenya and the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights.

The court ordered the release of the seven officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union after two days behind bars following their sentencing by Employment and Labour Relations Court judge Hellen Wasilwa on Monday to a month in prison for contempt of court.

The law society today nominated seasoned mediators John Morris Ohaga and Njeri Kariuki to the panel which also has human rights chair Kagwiria Mbogori and Mr James Mang'erere.

"The panel, which shall be co-chaired by Ms Mbogori and Mr Ohaga, immediately commenced its preparations the day the order was made," read a statement.

The court ordered the legal experts and rights group that will be leading the talks to submit a report next week (February 23) with the aim of calling off the doctors' strike that will be in its 75th day on Friday.

"We have full confidence in the mediation panel, which comprises the very best," said law society president Isaac Okero.

He expressed the society's commitment to a substantive resolution to the crisis in health services.

Several attempts at ending the strike through dialogue have failed.

The doctors even rejected a 40 per cent salary increase offered by President Uhuru Kenyatta in lieu of the discredited collective bargaining agreement they signed with the Ministry of Health in 2013.

In solidarity with their colleagues in public hospitals, doctors in private health facilities had resolved not to treat patients for two days.

Meanwhile, the Kenya Medical Association has asked private hospitals to resume services.

"Having consulted the union leadership, the association is announcing that normal services resume at private facilities from midnight tonight," the chair, Dr Jacqueline Kitulu, said in a statement Thursday.

Two days ago, the association and specialists from 18 professional medical organisations issued a statement withdrawing services from all hospitals in the country, including private ones.

Dr Kitulu asked KMA members in private hospitals and universities to go on strike for 48 hours in solidarity with their seven colleagues jailed on Monday.

Pregnant mothers and accident victims were among thousands of patients turned away from private hospitals.

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