, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 5 – A national healthcare crisis was unfolding in Kenya on Monday as doctors working in public hospitals across the country made good their threat to down their tools paralysing crucial services in major health facilities.
Unconfirmed reports from Mombasa said that a patient had died due to neglect at the Coast General Hospital as over 1,000 doctors across the nation started the fourth strike in the country’s history protesting poor pay and a neglected public health sector.
Students at the Mombasa Medical Training Institute were called out of their classrooms to assist at the Coast General Hospital after doctors there boycotted work.
In Nairobi, the doctors led by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists union chairman Victor Ng’ani marched from the Kenyatta National Hospital to Afya House with slogans reading ‘Healthcare Is A Right’.
Ng’ani said they would not return to work until their demands were met.
“For the last two weeks we have tried to engage the government to avert this strike but what is becoming clear is that the government’s does not intend to solve this problem. We will continue the strike until the government resolves the challenges facing doctors. Doctors must be paid well,” he said.
He said industrial action was the only way to get the government to act.
“The government must be held responsible for abdicating its duty of providing healthcare to its people. It includes paying doctors well,” he said.
But un-attended patients at the Kenyatta National Hospital who spoke to Capital News urged the government to act fast and ensure the doctors resumed work immediately.
“I came here in the morning and my patient has not been attended to. I am told they are on strike. I just don’t know what to do because my patient has been referred here,” John Munge who had taken a patient to Kenyatta National Hospital said.
Doctors in Kisumu County also joined their colleagues across the country in heeding to the calls by their union to down their tools.
Led by Kenya Medical Practitioners and Pharmacist Dentist Union, Kisumu county chairman Wesley Ooga, the doctors presented a list of grievances with proper remuneration, improved working conditions and better medical equipments in public hospitals topping the list.
Ooga says it was regrettable that patients were dying from simple ailments such as pneumonia and malaria, a scenario he attributed to inadequate medical equipments and supplies in public hospitals.
He pointed an accusing finger to the government arguing that they ought to have come up with amicable solutions when the doctors opened their doors for negotiations.
He urged members of the public to support their course saying that the strike was for the betterment of service delivery in public hospitals.
Nyanza Provincial General Hospital (NPGH) Medical Superintendent Juliana Otieno confirmed to the media that doctors at the referral facility downed their tools in solidarity with their colleagues nationally but assured of continued services.
Otieno regretted that they expected to get more referral patients especially at this time when medical services have ground to a halt in most district hospitals across the province.
She however assured the public that senior doctors and clinical officers were on standby to respond to emergency situations such as accidents and caesarean deliveries.
Otieno revealed that despite the strike, the facility successfully handled a minor operation on Monday morning but urged the government to swiftly resolve the doctors’ grievances.
The situation was worse in Taita Taveta County as medical personnel who were on leave were recalled to avert more crises.
Doctors at Wesu, Voi, and Mwatate and Taveta district hospitals stayed away according to Voi Acting DC George Matundura.