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We’re ready to arbitrate, Senate says as it issues doctors strike summons

Speaking during a press conference, Senate Health Committee Chairman Wilfred Machage explained that the legislators will be seeking to establish the progress made so far in the pay talks that appear to have stalled since December/SIMON NDONGA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1 – The Senate has now summoned top Health Ministry officials over the doctors strike that started two months ago and stated that Parliament is ready to act as an arbitrator between the ministry and doctors’ union officials.

Speaking during a press conference, Senate Health Committee Chairman Wilfred Machage explained that the legislators will be seeking to establish the progress made so far in the pay talks that appear to have stalled since December.

He indicated that Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri will personally face the committee on Tuesday next week to explain the steps taken so far to get the doctors back to hospitals.

“We were supposed to have one government official here and he has not appeared. I will therefore be sending letters to the Ministry of Health CS and PS to appear before this committee in person on the 7th of next week,” he said.

The committee also summoned officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) who are required to appear before it on Wednesday.

“Thereafter, I will be calling for the officials of KMPDU to appear before this committee on February 8. I have not however fixed a date to get the necessary committee concerned with health and employment from the Council of Governors but believe you me it will be following on either February 9 or 10,” the Migori Senator said.

He stated that the Council of Governors will have to appear before the committee as they also played a big role in addressing the concerns of doctors.

“We want to see also whether they are able to employ doctors because this is a devolved function. I have been informed that the ministry has an intention of laying off all doctors employed which is very unfortunate. I am also privy to information that the council of governors would wish to do the same and seek to restart new employment of doctors on terms agreed to both parties,” he said.

He stated that the CoG threat to sack all doctors lacked merit and if implemented would aggravate the situation further.

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“It sounds sensible on matters of labour but it is total nonsense on matters of health because we are having the common Kenyans suffering. Medical services cannot be taken lightly as any other service. It affects my life and your life,” he said.

The Health Committee Chairman emphasised the need for a joint committee of the National Assembly and the Senate to be formed to handle the matter which he indicated has reached grave proportions.

While appealing for reason on both sides of the dispute, Machage urged the Judiciary not to escalate the situation further by jailing union officials crucial to the negotiations.

“In honesty really and humility, I appeal to our courts to consider the plight of the common man and to desist as much as possible not to jail professionals who are not even enough to serve our population,” he stated.

He further called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to be more involved in the matter and follow up on resolutions arrived at during his meeting with union officials in Mombasa.

“I am also requesting for the executive and especially so I am appealing to the Head of State. I know he has met these doctors once. As far as I am concerned, that was not enough. He can control his Ministers, he can control CRC, he can control the agencies involved in setting remunerations for doctors,” he said.

He also encouraged the doctors’ union officials not hang on to the CBA which has been declared illegal but to cede ground by crafting another document.

Doctors have already presented a petition to Parliament to intervene and help them secure a 300 percent salary increment in the contentious 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

READ: Senate committee to meet health officials over doctors strike

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In the petition, KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga stated that doctors have been willing and available for negotiations to end the stalemate and halt the suffering of Kenyans.

He clarified that they have attended all negotiation meetings called by the various stakeholders to end the mass action.

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