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President Uhuru rules out negotiations with striking doctors

Kenya Medical Association National Secretary Lukoye Atwoli (left), National Chairperson Jacqueline Kitulu (centre) and other medical specialists address a press conference. (Photo: David Njaaga/Standard)

The national and county governments Wednesday ruled out any further negotiations with the striking doctors.

Speaking in Lodwar, Turkana County, yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said striking doctors must return to work before any negotiations can continue.

“If you don’t go back to work you will go home and we will employ other doctors. Go back to work as we discuss your salary increment. If you continue striking, it will be unacceptable,” he said.

At the same time, Council of Governors Chairman Peter Munya warned that doctors who failed to return to work by next Monday would be dismissed.

This comes on a day when Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) sacked 12 doctors who are among those who refused to resume work.

And following the Government’s tough stance, the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) appeared to soften its position, stating that it was ready to negotiate the contentious issues.

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KMA officials led by National Secretary Lukoye Atwoli and Assistant Chairperson Jacqueline Kitulu told journalists that the medics were ready to return to work. They asked the Government to give negotiations one more chance.

According to the new terms of service approved during the extraordinary session of the national and county governments on Tuesday, a medical intern will earn a minimum Sh196,244 and maximum Sh206,214 inclusive of allowances.

The highest ranked doctors will take home a minimum of Sh442,060 and a maximum of Sh592,980 inclusive of allowances. This is far below what the doctors had asked for.

While pleading for another chance to negotiate, Prof Atwoli noted that the Government and the union had agreed on many of the issues.

“The CBA has already been agreed on by the two parties and is ready to be signed,” said Atwoli, who added that the mutual recognition agreements between the union and their employer had also been concluded and were ready for signing.

“The only remaining document to be concluded is the Return to Work Agreement where a number of clauses need to be refined in order to allow for the calling off of the strike.”

While announcing the sacking of the 12 doctors, KNH Chief Executive Officer Lily Koros told journalists that they medics had defied the directive not to participate in the ongoing national strike.

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“The hospital has terminated the services of the medical officers who have been absent from duty on account of desertion in line with the Employment Act 2007 Section 44(4a) and the hospital’s terms and conditions of service,” she said.

Ms Koros further warned doctors employed at the hospital to return to work with immediate effect, adding that those who refused risked severe disciplinary action, including summary dismissal.

HOSPITAL QUARTERS

“Apart from dismissal, the doctors who fail to resume work will be evicted from the hospital quarters and any other administrative action deemed necessary (taken),” she said.

The strike, which is in its 94th day, has crippled the health sector and caused widespread suffering.

During the meeting between the President and the governors, other measures agreed on included the disbandment of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union. It was also agreed that the Health ministry should takes over the registration of doctors from the union.

In an interview with KTN yesterday, Meru Governor Peter Munya said counties had begun the process of replacing the striking doctors.

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“Whatever the doctors are saying, we have already instructed our counties to begin the process of sacking and replacing them. Those who want to continue working should report to work with immediate effect,” he said.

“Those who have not not returned to work will no longer be workers of either the national or county government. Whoever is living in a Government house or has a [Government] car should return it to the Government immediately.

“We are going to hire doctors from other places. Even in Cuba there are many doctors we can turn to. Our doctors are working in other places such as Botswana and we too can hire from Cuba and elsewhere.”

According to Mr Munya, doctors who have been on duty will receive the Government’s offer of new allowances backdated to January 2017.

“Those doctors who are on strike and are willing to return to work are expected to resume duty at their respective stations with immediate effect,” he said.

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