Kenya: MPs Health Committee Pleads With Doctors to Call Off Looming Strike

(file photo).
3 December 2020

Nairobi — The National Assembly Health Committee has pleaded with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) to call off a national strike set to start on Monday.

The committee Chairperson Sabina Chege said they intend to initiative talks with the Ministries of Health and Treasury to unlock the stalemate.

Doctors have threatened to down tools from Monday over lack of sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in hospitals, particularly for those handling COVID-19 cases.

The committee blamed Cabinet Secretaries Mutahi Kagwe (Health) and Ukur Yattani (Treasury) for not working to resolve the matter, after they failed to show up at a meeting called to discuss the plight of healthworkers.

Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and the Council of Governors (CoG) were also invited for the meeting but did not show up.

"I can see there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I know you love your job. If you go, we will all suffer. We have seen and heard where the difficulties are, some people are willing and others are not willing and we can tell Kenyans what is happening," Chege said, "So please allow us to walk this journey together so that we can find a lasting solution."

KMPDU Secretary-General Dr. Chibanzi Mwachonda remained non-committal on whether the strike will be called off.

"The reason why we have been coming here is because we also want to find a solution, but that decision cannot be made by any of us here. It is at z decision of our advisory council. We will continue to engage, and that decision will be communicated once we convene," Dr. Mwachonda said.

Doctors have been protesting due to inadequate PPEs in hospitals since March when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the country.

On November 15, doctors issued a three-week strike notice, accusing the government of neglecting them by failing to provide adequate gear in the fight against COVID-19.

Through their union, KMPDU, the doctors said they will down tools unless their plight is addressed.

"Over the last 8 months, KMPDU has continuously engaged all relevant government ministries, parastatals and council of governors, the legislature and followed all relevant channels in employment and labor relations in a bid to address the plight of frontline healthcare workers. The union had put the industrial off the table but now we have been forced to review our options," Dr. Mwachonda said.

He faulted the government for failing to address their plight, leading to the deaths of medical workers.

On Monday, National Assembly gave the National Treasury and Ministry of Health 21 days to remit Sh500 million to the National Hospital Insurance Fund Scheme for the provision of Group Life Insurance Cover for all COVID-19 frontline medical staff working in all Counties and the National Referral Hospitals.

This was after the National Assembly unanimously approved an amended version of the report by the House Health Committee for the funds provided for in the Supplementary Appropriation Act (No. 2) of 2020.

As a result of the adoption of the committee resolution, NHIF was also directed to ensure that within 21 days all medical staff in the counties and national referral hospitals are placed under the Group Life insurance Cover.

The resolution by the House has further compelled the Council of Governors to ensure that all the nineteen counties that have no medical cover for its health workers sign-up for the Comprehensive Medical Cover through the National Hospital Insurance Fund.

"The National Treasury and Council of Governors establishes a centralized pool of medical cover through the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) Comprehensive Medical Scheme for all county medical staff. The Scheme should be in place at the beginning of the Financial Year 2021/22 and that the Ministry of Health and Counties do make provisions of the same in their respective FY 2021/22 budgets," the Committee Report on its Inquiry into the Utilization of the Funds Appropriated to the Ministry of Health in the Financial Year 2019/20 for the Control and Management of the COVID-19 Pandemic, with Focus on the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) noted.

The Cabinet in September approved an insurance cover that addresses only one of the key demands of health workers following protests.

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