Bungoma Doctors down tools as health crisis worsens

Bungoma Hospital
Bungoma Hospital

Services at the Bungoma County Hospital were paralysed for the second day on Wednesday after Bungoma doctors downed their tools over lack of promotions and delayed salaries among other issues.

Doctors’ Union Western Kenya Branch secretary general, Anthony Akoto, has vowed that doctors will not return to work until all their grievances are addressed.

This follows a mega health workers’ strike in the same county that took place in the month of June and led to the deaths of 11 people.

Reports indicate that over 30 patients have died since the strike by health workers, including doctors and nurses, began in June this year.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, says doctors and medical personnel in some counties have not received salaries for the last four months.

Furthermore, the union claims that, with the exception of Machakos, Wajir and Kisii counties, all the other counties have not promoted a single doctor in the two years that devolution has been in effect.

The doctors’ strike in Bungoma is just the latest in a widespread health crisis with medics in most counties abdicating duty over unpaid salaries.

On Monday, two newborn babies died at the Garissa Referral Hospital as a boycott by a section of doctors and nurses who are protesting their delayed August salaries entered its third day on Monday.

The two bring the total of deaths attributed to the go-slow to three after a premature baby who had been put in an incubator died on Saturday when the medics started the boycott.

About two weeks ago, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero threatened to sack and the replace striking Nairobi County health workers saying the county has resolved the outstanding salary and allowance issues.

Terming their strike illegal, Kidero intimated that most of the striking nurses belong to the Kenya National Union of Nurses and added that the county government only recognises the Kenya Government Workers Union.

Kidero’s threat mirrored that of Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua who threatened to sack all health workers who refused to resume work by September 4, 2015.

Gachagua said that besides having no genuine grievances, the health workers have an obligation to obey the court order demanding that they return to work.

At the beginning of September, Meru County health workers went on strike accusing the county government of ignoring their grievances despite having been issued with a strike notice two weeks before.

The health workers wanted the County Government of Meru to address salary delays, lack of promotions, lack of hardship and transfer allowances, poor working conditions, lack of annual pay increments and punitive transfers.

This happened even as the Council of Governors blamed the national government for all the salary woes in the counties, saying workers’ salaries have delayed due to a delay by the national government in releasing county funds.

The governors claimed that the 3-month delay in salaries has put county operations in limbo and some county governments have been forced to use their savings or get overdrafts to pay staff and stop the situation from escalating.

To date, close to 2,000 doctors have voluntarily left government service to look for greener pastures in the private sector.

In a country where only 3,300 doctors are employed against an estimated population of over 40 million people, this is worrying.

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Story By Reuben Wanyama
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