The Kenyan health sector is in the Intensive Care Unit and there seems to be no cure to the current critically ill sector as Kenyans continue to suffer in their homes.
The longest ever doctors strike is still going on and has entered its second month with hopes of ever resolving the stalemate diminishing with each passing day as each side holds on its ridged demands.
Doctors went on strike a month and seven days ago, demanding that the government implements the collective bargaining agreement, CBA, that was signed between their union, KMPDU and the government in the year 2013.
Among other things, the CBA suggests a salary increment for the doctors of up to 300 percent as well as bettering their working conditions. The doctors strike ran alongside that of nurses but nurses across the country ended their strike after their union officials struck a deal with the Ministry of Health.
The national government has since denounced the CBA signed between it and the doctors’ union in 2013 terming it illegal and, therefore, null and void saying that the signing contravened the constitution.
According to the statehouse spokesperson, Manoah Esipisu, the CBA was signed without the blessing of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, SRC as stated in the constitution. He said that the law demands that no salary should be negotiated outside SRC, utterances that seem to have angered the doctors even the more.
President Uhuru Kenyatta who has been mute over the strike since it kicked off invited the striking doctors at statehouse in Mombasa but failed to convince them to go back to work. It said that in that meeting, the government offered a deal of 40 percent, 160 percent below what is stated in the 2013 CBA and the medics representatives could hear none of it.
The striking doctors insist that they will return to work upon nothing else but the implementation of the 2013 CBA while the government on the other hand holds on its earlier offer of 40 percent with the constant song of “take it or leave it.”
The health sector under the new constitution was devolved into the counties and this means that county governments are directly in charge including paying for the doctors. The Council of Governors, on Monday issued an ultimatum of 48 hours to the striking doctors to return to work or risk being fired. Through their chair, Governor for Meru, Peter Munya, governors say that their limits and patience has been overstretched and that they will not just sit by and watch as people continue to suffer.
Already, the County Government of Kiambu through Governor William Kabogo has announced that it will be recruiting new doctors as from Tuesday, giving the striking doctors only 24 hours to return to work. Nakuru County, through Governor Kinuthia Mbugua had also issued similar sentiments.
One County, however has not been affected by the ongoing doctors strike. This is Bomet County led by Governor Isaac Ruto. Doctors in this county have been continuing with their work serving patients even from other counties. It is not yet clear what their agreement with Isaac Ruto was.
With the Council of Governors giving a 48-hour ultimatum, the national government denouncing the 2013 CBA and the doctors holding onto their initial demands, the doctors strike is far from being over and the woes facing Kenyans see as though they have just started.
At one point, the Ministry of Health had put in place considerations to fly in doctors from both India and Cuba to come and help ease the already deplorable state in the health sector. The doctors are yet to fly in despite the fact that the Ministry had said that they were to be facilitated by their respective countries.
The Ministry of Health, through its Cabinet Secretary Dr. Cleopa Mailu said the government was contemplating all possible channels including hiring of the new doctors if the existing ones will not go back to work. Both the government and the doctors’ union seem to stick to their demands and none is willing to let go as patients all over the country continue bearing the brunt of the ongoing doctors’ strike.
Pregnant mothers have been turned away in several public facilities including Pumwani Maternity Hospital leading to some of the losing their unborn babies.
For the last one month, thousands of patients were withdrawn from public hospitals and for those who could afford taking them to private facilities did so while those who could not took their loved ones to their homes while holding on the hope that the matter would be resolved. The number of patients who have died due to the ongoing doctors’ strike has become hard to establish given the fact that the majority of the patients are at home.
Cancer patients who used to get their medication and gemmotherapy at The Nairobi Hospital have since lost hope and some who had started recovering have gone back to the initial condition.
The health sector is ailing and there seems to be no cure. What should Kenyans do?