In the demonstration organised by the nonprofit Amnesty International Kenya on Friday, the protesters demanded accountability in the ministry and affordability and accessibility to health services for all as stated in the Constitution, especially in the face of the strike by doctors, clinical officers and other healthcare professionals.
They marched from Uhuru Park chanting slogans and carrying placards demanding improvement of hospital services.
Hundreds of people staged a protest march to the Ministry of Health headquarters at Afya House in Nairobi to complain over what they termed as deplorable conditions in health facilities and failure of services in public hospitals as the doctors’ strike continued to bite.
On reaching Afya House, they demanded that Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) Cleopa Mailu addresses them and he obliged.
Dr Mailu said the striking doctors had a responsibility to attend to their duties even as negotiations were ongoing but he said he regretted this was not the case.
“This is not a situation we take pride in and we hope that the services will resume after fruitful negotiations are concluded,” he said.
He lauded the doctors who were continuing to render their services during the strike, saying the government had done everything within its capacity to ensure better health services.
The CS dismissed as lies the claim that public hospitals lack proper equipment to conduct basic medical procedures, saying that it was “wrong for doctors to cheat Kenyans that there are no drugs and equipment”.
He said the ministry would pronounce itself clearly if the strike persists. He, however, did not delve into the specifics of what their interventions would entail.
Dr Mailu acknowledged that there were difficulties for patients seeking health services in hospitals while the doctors were on strike and expressed hope that the current stalemate would be brought to an end.
However, the protesters said Dr mailu had not handled their concerns satisfactorily as a public servant should for citizens.
“We are disappointed he did not exercise humility to adequately respond to our grievances,” Naomi Barasa, campaign organiser at Amnesty International Kenya, said.
Citing the doctor-to-patient ratio of 1 to 16,000 in Kenya, she said healthcare in the country was below acceptable standards and that whether or not the doctors were on strike, they would still protest.
Ruth Adongo, who took her two-year-old child with swollen testicles to the CS as evidence of the effect of the ongoing strike, said the child had never had treatment for his condition since it began when he was two-months old.
“The government should move with speed to end this health crisis in order to prevent unnecessary deaths from treatable diseases and prevent slum women from delivering at home which is risky,” she said.
The protest came a day after the Court of Appeal allowed negotiators in the doctors’ strike stalemate another seven days to resolve the matter. The striking doctors want full implementation of a collective bargaining agreement signed four years ago.