NAIROBI, Kenya, December 3 – The government has appealed to doctors to abandon their strike action set for Monday next week 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 will 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. “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 yesterday (Friday),” he said
Despite this call, the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union however maintained that the doctors’ strike was still on despite reports indicating that they are affiliated to another faction that has called off the strike.
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.
Chairman Victor Ng’ani said talks were yet to bear fruit and accused the government of frustrating their efforts at negotiations.
“The government had no more interest in these negotiations than a public relations exercise. On Monday, we met the minister for Medical services and had fruitful discussions in which we agreed to establish negotiation teams. The day after that, we met negotiation teams from both sides and handed over our proposals which sounded reasonable,” he said.
He emphasised that they will not relent until most of their demands are met.
“Thereafter, there was no contact from the government side because in that particular meeting, they refused to give definite time lines to define the ongoing negotiations,” he stated.
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.
“It is due to this huge disparity in the regional pay scale that mass exodus of doctors from Kenya to Namibia, South Africa and Botswana continues unabated, KMPDU,” secretary general Boniface Chitayi said.
According to the Medical and Dentists Board boss Daniel Yumbia, about 64 per cent of those who were leaving 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.
But even with this push for a 300 per cent increase, the doctors will still be badly off, compared to their peers in Botswana who take home Sh219,458 in basic salary at entry level.
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.