Nearly four months after their nationwide strike, doctors have signed their 2017-2020 collective bargaining agreement.
On Thursday, county governments signed the four-year deal with doctors, a week after the Ministry of Health, representing the national government, signed the document. This will make the lowest-paid doctor (intern) earn Sh212,989 and the highest-paid (consultant) Sh814,000.
Doctors will work for 40 hours a week and be paid for any extra time put into the job. A doctor wishing to go back to the university for a master’s can also do so whenever they wish, unlike in the past, when they were required to first work for three years.
The government will, however, only pay monthly salaries to doctors who go back to school under State sponsorship as has been the norm. The union had demanded that all doctors pursuing postgraduate courses (registrars), whether privately or government-sponsored, be paid a monthly salary.
Signed between the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union and all the 47 counties, the four-year agreement is expected to be registered with the Employment and Labour Relations Court in the next 14 days.
KMPDU Secretary-General Ouma Oluga said at the signing ceremony at the offices of the Council of Governors in Nairobi: “We are sincerely sorry to our patients but we know sometimes struggle brings something better.”
Dr Oluga was referring to the deaths, pain, suffering and inconvenience their 100-day industrial action caused patients in public hospitals.
“The ultimate objective is that, when my mother goes to a hospital, her pain and suffering is alleviated,” said Dr Oluga. “That is what every single Kenyan wants.”
The doctors also said that the signing of the CBA marks a new beginning not only for doctors but also for patients across the country.
“When somebody in the village goes to the hospital, they should get proper and dependable healthcare,” said Dr Samuel Oroko, the KMPDU chairman.
The CBA seeks to improve basic pay for doctors and provide them with benefits such as call allowances ranging between Sh56,000 and Sh70,000.
Upon graduation and completion of internship, for instance, a medical officer will be placed in Job Group M or C3 according to the new salary structure by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. They will be paid not later than a month after they have worked at their station.
The new deal also prompts counties to pay salaries and all statutory and union deductions on time.
The chairman of CoG, Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok, called on the national government to provide more funds to counties to cater for the improved perks.
“We are willing to pay but we must be honest and say that the resources are not sufficient,” said Mr Nanok.
Besides the monetary gain, the deal is also expected to improve the working conditions for medical staff in public hospitals. Inter-county transfers of doctors are now possible.
However, the doctors’ quest for a centralised human resource system, like a health commission, failed.