Kenya: Pain, Suffering and Anger As Doctors Start Work Boycott

Susan Liaman is wheeled out of hospital after failing to get medical services at Nakuru Level Five Hospital on December 21, 2020.
22 December 2020

Patients and public health workers yesterday united apart in a day of tears: The medics bidding farewell to one of their own felled by coronavirus as their patients writhed in pain.

Hospitals remained deserted after doctors joined nurses and clinical officers in their strike.

Patients agonised as doctors officially declared job boycott at the burial of Dr Stephen Mogusu, who until his death was fighting Covid-19 at Machakos Level Five Hospital.

His colleagues say he lost the war to the virus because the government failed to listen to their pleas to improve working conditions - including providing protective gear, life and medical covers, promotions and recruiting more doctors.

"Mogusu is our thirteenth fallen soldier, the youngest doctor to have died from coronavirus-related complications," said Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Acting Secretary-General Chibanzi Mwanchonda as he declared the strike in Kisii County.

"It is sad, devastating and circumstances which KMPDU would not like to see again. We have drawn the line. This is about saving and protecting the doctors' lives."

The indefinite strike will definitely make matters worse for the country as it battles a global pandemic. More Kenyans will be killed by the virus and many other treatable and preventable diseases.

Thousands of patients who could not afford services at private hospitals were taken home by their families yesterday.

Mr Peter Muriithi missed a doctor's review after a delicate surgery to remove a malignant growth last month. The doctor he was to see at Embu Referral Hospital was missing.

Private hospitals

"I was informed that he could be taking part in the work boycott. I don't know where else to get such a service," the primary school teacher told the Nation yesterday.

Expectant women at the Hola Referral Hospital, Tana River County, left to seek the services of midwives in the village. Those with complications were taken to private hospitals.

"We found the doors shut. There are no doctors or nurses here," Ms Mwanaharusi Jillo, a mother of an eight-month-old infant, said.

A deserted compound, unoccupied benches at the outpatient wing, padlocks on the administration block doors at JM Memorial welcomed patients as doctors, nurses and clinical officers stayed away.

Services were hit hard at most top regional hospitals, including Coast General, Kakamega General, Nakuru Level Five, Moi Teaching, Kericho, Kisumu County, Moi County in Voi and King Fahad in Lamu.

The situation was different in Bomet and parts of Kericho. Two weeks ago, the Bomet county government struck a deal with health workers. Patients were being attended to at Longisa County Referral, Cheptalal, Ndanai and Koiwa hospitals.

The doctors called off the strike after the county government promised to implement their collective bargaining agreement.

Patients suffer

Overall, the suffering of patients and their families may get worse as KMPDU maintains its members will not resume work.

"It is our right to go on strike. No amount of money can bring back a dead health worker," Dr Mwachonda said.

KMPDU Nyanza Branch chairman Kevin Osuri told Health CS Mutahi Kagwe to stop intimidating doctors and other striking health workers.

"We understand the struggles of Kenyans and what it means for a son or daughter to have gone to school for years and just when the parents are about to reap the benefit, this flower is plucked from the family," Dr Mwanchonda said.

By Ruth Mbula, Benson Ayienda, Lucy Mkanyika, Maureen Ongalo, Kalume Kazungu, Stephen Oduor, Winnie Atieno, Vitalis Kimtai, Derick Luvega, Elizabeth Ojina, Shaban Makokha, Dennis Lubanga, Tutus Ominde, Barnabas Bii, Tom Matoke, Flora Koech, Mercy Mwende, George Munene, Gitnga Marete and Irene Mugo.

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