Kenya govt urges medics to end strike

Kenya Medics have staged demonstrations to demand more pay and better conditions.  By Tony KARUMBA AFPFile
APR 2, 2024 LISTEN
Medics have staged demonstrations to demand more pay and better conditions. By Tony KARUMBA (AFP/File)

The Kenyan government on Tuesday urged medics to end a nationwide strike that has now dragged into a third week, paralysing health services at some public hospitals.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), an umbrella body with more than 7,000 members, went on strike in mid-March over pay and working conditions.

Union leaders have vowed to continue the action despite an order by a labour court last month to suspend the strike.

But in a statement issued Tuesday, the government said it would meet some of the demands of the medics.

These included facilitating the payment of arrears under a 2017 collective bargaining agreement, and securing a budget for the hiring of medical interns, among the main grievances.

The government said it wanted to "resolve the current dispute and bring about a permanent end to the cycle of industrial action in the health sector" and remained "committed to fostering constructive dialogue, addressing concerns, and ensuring the health and well-being of all Kenyans".

"With that spirit in mind, the leadership of the KMPDU is urged to comply with its obligations under the court's orders by immediately suspending the ongoing industrial action," said the statement, signed by public service chief Felix Koskei.

On Monday, the union had accused Kenyan authorities of attempting to "intimidate and coerce" its members into abandoning the strike.

Poor salaries and working conditions have led to an exodus of Kenyan medics to other African countries and further afield, with the local health sector beset by widespread and disruptive industrial action.

Clinical officers on Monday launched a nationwide strike of their own, demanding the government also improve their working conditions, with promotions and improved allowances.

They vowed to stage a "mega demonstration" in the capital Nairobi on Wednesday.

"We are not the problem, we have demonstrated enough that we have the goodwill but the problem is on the side of the government," Peterson Wachira, chairman of the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers, said Monday.

In 2017, Kenyan doctors staged a crippling 100-day nationwide strike that left public hospitals shut and patients unable to access basic care.

Dozens of patients died during the walkout, which ended after the collective bargaining agreement was agreed.