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After weeks of silence, opposition leader Raila Odinga has finally spoken out on the ongoing doctors’ strike which has crippled medical services across Kenya, with negotiations between the State and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) hitting an impasse.

Speaking in Lavington, Nairobi, on Thursday following an ODM National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, Mr. Odinga appealed to the government and KMPDU to find a middle ground to facilitate the resumption of medical services.

He further highlighted the maintenance of medical interns’ salaries at Ksh.206,000 as stipulated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed in 2017 as one of the avenues that will resolve the standoff, before a new agreement is reached.

“For the last seven years, interns have been earning Ksh.206,000 per month. These are actually the doctors running Level IV and many other public hospitals. There is no way an employer can reduce the salaries of employees mid-stream,” said Mr. Odinga, in reference to the State’s proposal to slash medical interns’ pay to Ksh.70,000.

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“We ask the government to reinstate the Ksh.206,000 pay for interns until the next CBA negotiations, which is around the corner, kicks in. In that next round of negotiations both parties should put their cases on the table for consideration.”

He similarly pointed out the issue of fees and salaries for public doctors pursuing further studies, faulting the Ministry of Health (MoH) for reneging on its obligation to pick the said tab.

“Counties are supposed to pay salaries of doctors who are enrolled for further studies while MoH is supposed to pay fees. My understanding is that while counties have kept their side of the arrangement, MoH has failed to do so since 2018. As a result, a number of doctors cannot complete their studies and graduate because of fees owed,” said the ODM top honcho.

“As they retake courses, counties have stopped their salaries because those doctors have overstayed in college. MoH must immediately engage the doctors and the institutions with a view of clearing the fee balance and enable the doctors complete their studies. MoH must also engage counties to resolve the issue of pay for doctors who have overstayed in college through mistakes not of their own making.”

Furthermore, Mr. Odinga expressed concern over the hiring of doctors on short-term contracts, emphasising that the State should promptly address the issue by establishing rules that promote fair and respectable labour practices for doctors nationwide.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya chief also advocated for equal pay for doctors, decrying the current system’s lack of uniformity in salary structures.

“Doctors are complaining about a free-for-all system where some employers have free will to decide what to pay. The result has been a very unequal system where doctors hired to do same jobs, experience a huge variation in salaries. The medical profession is too important to be managed such casually. The ministry must intervene for the doctors,” he said.

Mr. Odinga additionally urged counties that have terminated the contracts of doctors who joined the nationwide strike to reconsider their decisions and reinstate them.

“I believe if these actions are taken in consultation with KMPDU, we’ll be able to avert the crisis that is building up in the health sector and pave way for less antagonistic engagement. This is a crisis that has serious ramifications,” the opposition boss said.

“We want this resolved. We had not spoken before and we want the government to take notice because we cannot remain silent for a longer time when this is persisting. We ask them to act now and if they don’t, the consequences will be grave”.

—Source: RMS 

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