Kenya : Kenya should end doctors’ strike, protect right to life

A family wheels their sick relative from Kenyatta National Hospital after operations in the facility were interrupted by the doctors strike, December 19, 2016. /JACK OWUOR
The Kenyan government should work with doctors for a solution to the strike that began on December 5, 2016, Human Rights Watch has said.

A last minute intervention by Cotu and a human rights body earned the health workers another reprieve in the matter of their 30-day jail sentence.

Read more: Atwoli intervention hands doctors union another 7 days for talks

HRW said in a statement on Monday that the government was not making efforts to end the stalemate yet patients were suffering and dying.

“The government should protect Kenyans’ rights to health and life, and work with doctors to reach a solution,” read the statement.

“The impact of the strike was clear when we visited Kenyatta National Hospital last week. There were no doctors, and dusty, abandoned stretchers littered the wards.”

A patient the rights lobby interviewed spoke about a friend who died after doctors went on strike.

“I am staring death in the face. We are dying one by one,” said Rose Adhiambo. “My friend, a cancer patient like me, was buried today. I am now stuck in this private hospital with bills that I cannot pay.”

Rose, 46, from Kibra was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and was undergoing chemotherapy at KNH before the strike began.
“Cancer is tough but I could pay my bills at the public hospitals,” Rose said. “I now depend on well-wishers and contributions from the church. [The private hospital] is really expensive. How will I manage? Why won’t the government end the strike?”

HRW noted that Rose and many other Kenyans have been forced to raise large amounts of money to pay for treatment at private hospitals.

Doctors have also told countless stories of the dire circumstances they and their patients have endured via Twitter hash tag #MyBadDoctorExperience.

More on this: Striking doctors tell horror stories via #MyBadDoctorExperience

Doctors are demanding the implementation of a CBA signed in 2013 but which the court has declared illegal since it was not registered before the Labour court.

They took the CBA to court for registration last year, but justice Monica Mbaru ruled that the union had to negotiate a new one with the Health ministry, Salaries and Remuneration Commission and the counties.

Counties now employ nearly 90 per cent of doctors but were not involved in the 2013 CBA.

The medics want a 300 per cent pay rise and better working conditions, in line with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Working conditions subject to review include job structures, criteria for promotions and the under-staffing of medical professionals in government hospitals.

Doctors have also accused the government of failing to stock public hospitals with basic medicines and supplies of items such as gloves.

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