Survey shows only 33 per cent of Kenyans support doctors’ strike

Only about one third of Kenyans support the ongoing doctors’ strike, a survey by research firm Ipsos has found.

Ipsos found that among Kenyans who are aware of the strike, only about 33 per cent support continued industrial action until the doctors’ demands are met.

The study, which was carried out over a period of two weeks in January, also shows that the political affiliation of respondents affected the level of support for the doctors’ strike.

Forty six per cent of respondents who self-identified as Cord supporters were in favour of continued industrial action. On the other hand, only 23 per cent of respondents who self-identified as Jubilee supporters were in favour of the strike.

“Even if the leaders of neither of the main political entities have taken a position regarding the strike (and whereas there has been no overt split within the Council of Governors on this issue), there is clearly more support for the doctors’ demands by supporters of the Opposition,” noted Ipsos in its commentary on the findings. The survey was carried out among 2,057 Kenyans from 42 counties. Ipsos says that the sample was selected to be proportionately representative of Kenya’s population.

Doctors downed their tools more than two months ago, paralysing health service delivery in the country.

The Ipsos survey showed that 91 per cent of respondents were aware of the strike. Among those aware, 53 per cent said that they knew someone who had been unable to get medical attention due to the strike.

Support for doctors was slightly higher among those who knew someone affected than those not affected by the strike.

It also seems that the strike has eroded the public’s confidence in the ability of county governments to manage health services. Across the political divide, surveyed Kenyans think that the national government should have the primary responsibility for health services.

“In this regard, it is clear that this strike is undermining public support for devolution to the extent that the counties hold the primary responsibility for health services,” said Ipsos. Kenyans may soon get their wish for an end to the strike. On February 3, the Labour Relations Court gave the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) a week to resolve the crisis.

The talks are spearheaded by the Central Organization of Trade Unions (Cotu) and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

The Council of Governors, the Auditor-General, Treasury, the Ministry of Labour, the Federation of Kenya Employers, and the Public Service Commission are also meant to be involved in the fresh talks.

The doctors are demanding the implementation of a 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Implementation of the CBA would mean a 300 per cent salary increase for the doctors, annual training for specialists, research funding and internship programmes.
However, previous negotiations have amounted to little with the doctors rejecting a 40 per cent salary increment offer by the government. The offer would have seen the least-paid doctor earn Sh196, 989 per month, up from Sh140, 244.

Lady Justice Hellen Wasilwa on January 10 issued a warrant of arrest for KMPDU officials after they defied a court order halting the strike in December.

Their one month jail term was subsequently suspended. Last week, the doctors were given another reprieve of seven days to allow for the current negotiations.

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