Home » Crisis Looms in Hospitals as Doctors Issue Strike Notice

Crisis Looms in Hospitals as Doctors Issue Strike Notice

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A crisis looms in Kenya`s health sector after the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) issued a 60-day strike notice on Saturday.

Led by the KPDMU Secretary General Dr. Davji Atellah, the officials who were addressing the media in Naivasha after holding a meeting on Saturday strongly opposed the move by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission(SRC) to cut down their allowances and salaries in a move to set them at par with other workers in the public sector.

Should the countrywide strike commence on March 6 as declared by the medics, millions of Kenyans who depend on public health facilities for healthcare stand to suffer.

SRC recently released a guideline and advisory to employers with a view to abolish doctors’ contractual earnings and remuneration, which action the medics argue that they were never consulted.

In the guidelines, SRC justified the move to develop the Allowances Policy Guideline for the Public Service, 2021 and maintained that the policy guideline was developed through a consultative and participatory process with stakeholder and public participation being undertaken as required under Articles 10 and 232 of the Constitution.

SRC said this was in line with Article 230(4) of the constitution, and in line with the principles provided in Article 230(5) of the constitution, and Section 12 of SRC Act, 2011.

“The overarching objective of the Allowances Policy Guideline for the Public Service is to provide a structured approach to streamlining the management and administration of allowances to improve transparency, accountability, equity and fairness, thereby, ensuring that the total public compensation bill is affordable and fiscally sustainable,” the SRC statement states in part.

SRC further states that payment of the allowance in addition to the basic salary amounts to double compensation. Consequently, SRC advised that the allowance be abolished and cease to be payable.

For instance, Sitting Allowance for Institutional Internal Committee Members were abolished since SRC was of the opinion that they are constituted to facilitate the execution of the mandate of the institutions.

           Atellah and KPDMU on their part argued that the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) are contractually binding between employers and employees pursuant to International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions No. 98 and 87 read together with Kenyan Constitution 2010 Article 41 and relevant employment and labour legislative tools.

“It is also paramount to note that it is a national and global labour practice and procedure never to review remunerations backwards. It is unethical and colonial in nature. Non-Practice Allowance was initiated for purposes of incentive and compensational,” he said.

“The officers benefiting from this allowance are compensated for the loss of earnings they forego while actively practicing in the medical facilities; that is the rationale behind including the same in our CBA as a negotiable item, meaning it is part and parcel of doctors’ contractual terms and conditions of employment,” he added.

KPDMU argues that SRC is a stranger and not a signatory to the said negotiated, concluded and registered CBA and therefore does not have the rationale and or constitutional mandate to scrap or abolish such remuneration gains.

Atellah noted that basic salary including all other allowances present a bare minimum standard of living of an employee and any unconstitutional attempt to reduce even a single component of the gross earnings will directly suffocate the welfare of our members. It will also seriously injure the productivity and motivation of the entire workforce in the public sector which subsequently will translate into serious negative impact to the public health care.

“Consequently, KMPDU rejects and opposes the said guidelines and policies for their repugnant, non-considerate ill intention. Abolishing the said allowances shall remain the severest infringement and threat to the employment rights and breech of employment contracts. The welfare of our members is our core objective,” the KPDMU officials said.

Early this month, the Government held a meeting with KMPDU officials that averted a nationwide strike that was to start this month of January. This is after  in a press briefing on November 26, 2022, the union said it would pursue industrial action if the government failed to honour a July 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Some of the grievances highlighted by the doctors during the meeting with the Government include; basic salary adjustments, creation of call rooms, posting of medical interns, employment of more doctors and provision of working tools.

Atellah has called upon the government to obey a court judgement issued on October 21, 2021, compelling it to implement the CBA. Failure to this, the union says it remains adamant in its industrial action.

“We also urge for your availability and active participation should we require your energy to fuel our programmes,” he said, adding that instead the Government should employ all unemployed doctors in the country to help meet the serious deficit of doctors in the country

Reports from the Ministry of Health show that as of 2020, Kenya had 26.3 registered medical officers per 100,000 population which was a slight increase in ratio in comparison to the 2019 figures. Countrywide, Kenya had 12,792 registered medical doctors in 2020.

The recent figures put the Kenya’s doctor-to-patient ratio to one to 16,000 which is far below a recommendation of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) of one to 1,000.