BY UPESI NEWS TEAM,NAIROBI,5TH DEC,2016-Operation in over 90 percent of public hospitals across the country have been grounded after doctors and nurses made true their warning to down their tools this morning. A spot check by Upesi News in various counties across the country has established that most public hospitals remained non operational as the strike begun to bite.
The move follows the expiry of the 21-day strike notice they issued on November 14. Health workers are pushing the government to implement a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) they signed in June 2013.
Dr Fredrick Oluga, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) general secretary, says that they were keeping off hospitals because the government had dishonoured the CBA for three years.
He and other KMPDU officials officially launched the nationwide strike at The Public Service Club, Nairobi.
Wearing lab coats, masks and theatre caps, the medics arrived armed with empty sacks which they said they hoped would be filled with their arrears like Josephine Kabura, who carried National Youth Service loot in bags.
Doctors when they officially launched their strike at The Public Service Club in Nairobi. PHOTO | UPESI NEWS
Their strike is in defiance of a temporary order by the Employment and Labour Relations Court on Friday stopping industrial action , and calls by Health CS Cleopa Mailu and Council of Governors to work as talks continue.
1: 16,000 RATIO
The medics are pushing for review of job groups, promotions, deployment and transfer of medical officers, as well as remuneration, according to the inked CBA.
More specifically the document addresses under-staffing, with the ministry asked to employ at least 1,200 doctors yearly over the next four years to reduce the doctor-patient ratio.
There is one doctor for at least 16,000 Kenyans.
Coast region deputy chairperson Gitau Kagona asked their members not to report to work, accusing counties and the Health ministry of failing to show commitment to improve the working conditions of health staff.
Dr Kagona said KMPDU has been pushing stakeholders, including the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, to implement the CBA but their efforts have failed to bear fruit.
He said the poor patient-doctor ratio was a big issue affecting most public health facilities in Kenya.
“We have a big shortage of doctors yet our counties are sending doctors away, saying they cannot hire more doctors. We cannot have good service delivery in hospitals because of this challenge,” he added.
The strike by the nearly 5,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and interns in those groups is likely to affect service delivery at over 2,700 public health facilities — including Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, where most Kenyans seek emergency medical care.
Also on strike are consultant and specialist medics, medical superintendents, county directors of health, doctor administrators, sub county medical officers, meaning a total shut down of the public-health-service delivery is looming if nothing is done to end the job boycott.
At Kisumu County Hospital, women in labour cried for help in vain as striking nurses refused to attend to them.
Patients were desperate at the Kakamega County Hospital after they were asked to leave at the start of the industrial action.
No doctor or nurse reported on duty and by 8.30am and most wards were deserted as patients were collected by relatives to seek treatment in private facilities.
At Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, nurses and doctors had not reported to work as late as 10am.
The hospital’s management was holed up in a crisis meeting by the time of going to press.
Among those caught up in the standoff between the government and the health workers was Mr Lokupuny Lobolia who was nursing gun-shot wounds after he was attacked by bandits in Natiti Village of Baragoi.
Expectant mothers awaiting Caesarean Section deliveries, children in incubators among other patients had been transferred to other private facilities in Nyahururu, some 130 kilometers away.
Doctors from Coast are expected to join their colleagues in Nairobi as nurses converge on Coast General Provincial Hospital for instructions from their union officials to join the strike.
In Kisii, no nurse or doctor could be seen at the Kisii Referral Hospital as patients had been left to their own devices.
Doctors kept off Thika Level Five Hospital in Kiambu and patients were being served by the nursing officers.
Services were also paralysed at Makueni County Referral Hospital in Wote Town after doctors and nurses sailed to report on duty.
Patients remained abandoned as the hospital administrators held a crisis meeting.
In Tharaka-Nithi, relatives of patients admitted in Chuka County Referral Hospital were seen collecting their kin and taking them to private hospitals and homes.
Patients seeking outpatient services were also stranded after finding hospital doors closed.
She added that she had called the private hospitals in the county and asked the management to accept those being referred there.
The nurses accuse the county government of failing to address their grievances.
Among the issues raised were pending payment of locum, escort and overtime allowances and promotion of nurses.
Dr Oluga on Sunday said doctors would not resume work until the government meets their demands.
“We are fighting for wananchi because the agreement will see the number of doctors increase and that they are better trained,” said Dr Oluga. “We have been lenient with our demands.”