, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 5 – The Management of the Kenyatta National Hospital was on Monday locked in crisis talks after doctors at the country’s leading referral institution downed their tools.
The strike that began at midnight saw several doctors boycott work. A spot-check by Capital News revealed that their work was being covered by consultants.
Patients interviewed said the strike has affected them adversely.
“I have been here since Saturday to get my medical records for further tests but I am unable to move because the doctors are on go slow,” another patient said.
But the doctors said: “It is not an easy decision, it never easy. But every time after the doctors’ strike usually everyone forgets about the doctor soon after and they go down the ladders. Inflation goes up and their salaries remain stagnant or in some cases even reduce.”
Last week the government appealed to doctors to abandon their strike action and give dialogue a chance.
The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation urged the doctors’ union to give the government more time to look at their proposals.
According to Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Mark Bor, the mass action would impact negatively on a majority of Kenyans.
“The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) on the other hand made further proposals against the government offer. The ministry promised to consult further and meet union members on Monday, December 5 2011,” he said on Friday. “The government appeals to the union, to similarly call off the intended strike and continue to offer their services to Kenyans.”
He stated the government’s readiness to meet with them on Monday.
“The ministries of Medical Services and Public Health and Sanitation have held several meetings with the two groups. The union and the society gave their respective proposals followed by a response from the government. Following the discussions, the Kenya Health Professional society accepted the proposals given to them and called off the strike),” he said.
The union issued a strike notice two weeks ago if their demands of a 300 percent salary hike, a 30 percent risk allowance and a medical insurance cover were not met.
Victor Ng’ani, chairman of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union, said the talks were yet to bear fruit and accused the government of frustrating their efforts at negotiations.
According to the union, a doctor in Namibia or South Africa takes home seven times the salary of his counterpart in Kenya per month.
The one in Botswana takes home three times what a Kenyan doctor at the same level earns, according to the union’s pay analysis.
According to the Medical and Dentists Board boss Daniel Yumbia, about 64 per cent of those who leave for the other countries were seeking better employment opportunities.
It is for this reason that the doctors in Kenya’s public hospitals are rooting for a new scheme of service that will see the gross salary of the lowest paid rise to Sh180,000 up from the current Sh60,000.
In Namibia, the doctor at intern level earns a basic pay of Sh312,000, while in South Africa he takes home Sh340,191.
The highest paid doctor in Kenya, a medical specialist II earns a gross salary of Sh130,000 which is set to increase to Sh520,000 if the push to increase their pay is heeded.
KMPDU said this new scheme for the 2,300 doctors in the country’s public hospitals is long overdue.
A medical officer earns Sh76,000 after one year into employment and Sh100,000 after three years in public service where they are referred to as senior medical officers.
Their union further proposed that all other hours they walk around the hospitals in the dead of the night must be compensated at a rate 1.5 times the amount paid during normal working hours.
The KMPDU also wants the government to start giving the doctors other allowances as risk, hardship on top of medical, house commuter and non-practicing allowances that they currently enjoy.