Striking doctors are hoping to deepen their industrial action to pile pressure on the Government to implement a deal they signed last December as the strike enters its fifth day on Monday.
The leadership of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPPDU) revealed on Sunday that they were seeking to convince consultants running emergency facilities in major public hospitals to quit.
If successful, this move will make health services in public hospitals screech to a complete halt and unleash a full-scale health crisis.
“The Government appears deaf to our legitimate demands. The Health ministers are not interested or are incapable of resolving this matter while Kenyans are suffering. We are working to push them back to the negotiating table,” said KMPPDU’s secretary general Were Onyino on Sunday.
The striking medics are expected to hold a media briefing on Monday to outline further steps to make their industrial action “more effective” by tightening screws on the Government.
But Dr Were said street demonstrations may begin next week.
Currently, consultants are manning hospitals but sources indicate that most of them are overwhelmed by work since they are handling more patients than normal.
Meanwhile, services at public hospitals continue to be below average as only a few doctors are manning stations and handling critical services with the help of nurses.
At Mbagathi District Hospital in Nairobi, patients braved the slow service as skeletal staff of doctors together with nurses struggled to deliver healthcare.
Athman Shabaan, who had brought a patient with a broken arm on Sunday morning, had not been attended to by late afternoon. He said doctors had told him to wait.
“I came all the way from Eastleigh Nairobi where we had received first aid. We rushed hoping to get quick service but we are very disappointed,” he lamented.
At Mathari Mental Hospital in Nairobi, a few doctors were holding a briefing session at the facility but attempts to get an overview on the situation were futile since the management staff were not available.
It appears that many ill Kenyans are not going to hospital for fear of long queues and delayed services. Some have chosen to remain at home and take self-medication while others have been forced to go to be private hospitals in their neigbourhood that are more expensive.
“I have been experiencing chest pains since last week. I came to Kenyatta National Hospital but I have yet to receive treatment. If I had money, I would have gone to a private hospital,” said Monica Anyango from Nairobi’s Umoja Estate.
Among the doctors’ demands is for the State to comply with last year’s agreement to pay doctors undergoing specialist training (registrars) Sh92,000 per month and amend the Constitution to have a Health Services Commission.
They lamented that the Government should have employed 200 doctors since last year, but has only hired 57 while very few doctors have been promoted as previously agreed.
“Monies released for payment of training fees for doctors have mysteriously gone missing,” said Dr Nelly Bosire, the union’s Nairobi County chairperson.
Doctors early last week downed their tools in various public hospitals countrywide, formally paralysing healthcare provision.
They lamented that the return-to-work formula signed by both the government and the union had not been implemented nine months later. The State, they said, had promised to improve their working conditions but had failed to do so.
By Ally Jamah, The Standard