, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 6 – Government efforts to end the ongoing countrywide doctors’ strike hit a deadlock on Tuesday after doctors rejected a Sh1.35 billion offer.
While the government said it was willing to pay doctors this money in allowances for them to report back to work, the doctors’ union protested that the bulk of it would be swallowed up in deductions for university loans. They said they would not resume duty until all their grievances were adequately addressed.
The doctors said that they had only been offered Sh30, 000 in extraneous allowance which would be implemented in phases.
“In the first phase which is January 2012 the amount that is going to be given is Sh10, 000 gross and the same will be offered in 2013 and 2014 and that is how we will get that Sh30, 000. That is the only amount of money the government has given to the doctors,” Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Secretary General Boniface Chitayi said.
The doctors have not been receiving any allowance.
Medical Services Assistant Minister Kambi Kazungu had announced the government offer at a press conference where he said each doctor would start earning up to Sh50, 000 per month in allowances only.
“We are limited by the Constitution but what we can do as a government, we have done it and that is why we have managed to address the issue of extraneous and other allowances,” he said.
The Assistant Minister argued that the government was not in a position to discuss the doctors’ salary demands as that role had been placed on the yet to be established Salaries and Remuneration Commission by the Constitution.
“We as a government can deal with allowances but that is as far as we can go. We cannot touch the salaries issue.
“What I am shocked about – though not surprised – is that they (doctors) have refused to take the money and I am now wondering what the purpose of this strike was,” he said.
However the doctors termed Kazungu’s statement as misinformed and said “That limitation about the salaries review commission is an artificial one. Schedule Six of the Constitution says that the commission should have been formed back in June this year latest.”
“In addition to that, part two of the same schedule says existing bodies such as the permanent salaries review board will continue with its current obligations so that there is no vacuum and that is very clear in the Constitution,” Chitayi further stated.
The doctors Union Chairman, Victor Ng’ani said they could no longer tolerate the deplorable conditions in public hospitals and Kenyans should demand for quality health care.
“Maternal mortality is on the decline in many countries but in Kenya our rate has worsened. We are losing 109 babies under the age of one month every single day because of lack of warmth and clean water in the facilities. Doctors are in the institutions, we know we can help these patients but we don’t have the ability to help them,” he said.
The countrywide doctor’s strike entered its second day on Tuesday.
The doctors said they would hold a demonstration in Nairobi on Wednesday to further push their agenda following the collapse of their negotiations with the government.
Meanwhile, patients in various hospitals lamented over the hardships they faced as a result of the mass action.
Speaking to Capital News, they deplored the conditions they had been left to languish in.
Some of them pointed out that they needed constant medical attention which they did not get as a result of the strike.
“I had come to Kenyatta Hospital here to be checked for my blood condition and since yesterday (Monday) I have not been attended to. This is because there are no doctors and I have just been told to wait,” one patient narrated.