, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 6 – The Kenya Medical Association (KMA) has threatened to join the ongoing strike by registrar doctors if the government does not address their concerns.
A strike by the consultant doctors who are members of the KMA would effectively paralyse operations at the Kenyatta National and Mathari hospitals.
This came as the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU) moved to court to challenge a decision by Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o to sack and withdraw practicing licenses for striking medics.
KMA supported the post graduate trainee doctors and said the government must rescind its decision to sack them to allow for structured and honest dialogue.
“They are actually the people who do emergency night calls before they even call the consultants. Something must be put in place to compensate them for offering this service, not necessarily by the government but the institutions they are working in should initiate discussions with these registrars,” KMA Chairman Elly Nyaim said.
“Whether they are going to get the funds from the government or they are going to have their own mechanism of getting a way of compensating them but it is important for us to appreciate that they are offering service and quite a lot of service which I don’t think should be offered for free.”
If the consultant doctors make good their threat, the strike is expected to completely cripple operations in the health sector.
On Tuesday, the Medical Services Minister sacked all striking registrar doctors and withdrew their practicing certificates and maintained that the government was under no obligation to pay the self sponsored registrar doctors who are demanding a monthly stipend of Sh92,000.
Nyaim said the government had an obligation to honour agreed terms.
He said the issues the striking doctors had raised of allowances and compensation for the self sponsored registrars could be negotiated while learning and service to patients was on going.
“We will blame the government squarely if things turn to be a national crisis. For us there are two principal things – the welfare of the patient and the welfare of the doctor. Both the union and the Kenya Medical Association are interested in that. So when things get out of hand then I can see a situation where even KMA members and consultants will be forced to support so that sanity comes back,” he cautioned.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU) on the other hand argued that the minister acted in contempt of court since the doctors had obtained protection orders from the industrial court on August 30 protecting striking doctors from dismissal.
“The minister has no power to withdraw a practicing license. This can only be done by the board (Kenya Medical Practitioner and Dentist board),” the Union Chairman Victor Ng’ani insisted.
He regretted that the minister seemed not to appreciate the shortage of specialists in the country and without the initiative of self sponsored registrars, that shortage would never be resolved.
“Our beloved minister whom we have met several times said he is good at heart and has the best of intentions but unfortunately seems to always be clueless about the very serious issues going on in his ministry. The good minister is clueless about the existence of slavery in the institutions of Kenyatta National hospital, Mathari and Moi Teaching and Referral hospitals; slavery that we have tried to get rid of as a Union for the last one-and-a-half years,” Ng’ani said in reference to the self sponsored registrar doctors who are currently not paid.
He maintained that the registrar doctors would not go back to work until the issues they had raised of paying the self sponsored registrar doctors and paying school fees arrears for government sponsored registrars was resolved.
“On the 13th of this month, all doctors all over the country will be joining our colleagues to put an end to this mischief. We will not be cowed, we will not be moved, we will always fight corruption in the ministry and until slavery ends we will not rest. We are always open to a solution but we will not take intimidation, we will not take threats and most importantly we will not take slavery,” he insisted.
Registrar doctors are those training to specialise in specific fields but already have a first degree in medicine, a degree in surgery, done internship and worked for over four years.
Currently, there are about 450 registrar doctors out of who 200 are government sponsored and the rest are self sponsored.
The strike began on Monday last week and the government was yet to enter into any negotiations with the union.