18 January 2017

Kenya's Hospitals Crippled - On Doctors' Orders

Photo: Suleiman Mbatiah/Daily Nation
Patients remain stranded at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital.

A nationwide strike by public sector doctors and nurses in Kenya has shut down most public health facilities, and left many patients with no recourse to medical attention. By NJERI KIMANI.

"You stink like sewage," said labour court judge Helen Wasilwa as she handed down a one-month suspended sentence last week to leaders of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU). The judge's harsh words echo the sentiments of many Kenyans 45 days into a nationwide strike of public sector doctors and nurses that has crippled the public health sector.

Activities at all government hospitals, dispensaries, health clinics and voluntary testing and counselling facilities have come to a standstill. At most medical facilities, patients who do arrive seeking treatment are greeted with empty wards and locked examinations rooms.

Patients referred to government hospitals are forced to seek alternatives at private hospitals nearby, and many can't afford to pay the high price of private medicine.

Abdi Omar, 53, who has diabetes, was forced to buy insulin from private pharmacies at a much higher cost. "It is unfortunate that a drug I normally get for 300 Kenyan Shillings (R39) is now double priced at the pharmacies around," he said.

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