Free doctors or resign, Senate tells Health CS Cleopa Mailu

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu has called for the release of the seven jailed doctors’ union officials in order to continue with the negotiations.

While appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Mailu said he had initiated consultations with Attorney General Githu Muigai in a bid to have the jailed KMPDU officials freed.

“You cannot negotiate with doctors who are in prison,” pointed out Bony Khalwale – Kakamega Senator.

“I can assure you that I will do everything possible within the law to bring doctors back to the table,” Mailu assured.

As the strike enters its 72nd day, Mailu told the committee that most referral hospitals in the country are open, adding that the inpatient services remain dire. He noted that a meeting with the various health CECs is set for Wednesday to evaluate the situation and come up with a lasting solution.

The CS who was also quizzed about the alleged internal fighting within the Ministry of Health insisted that the ministry is willing to resolve the impasse and restore services.

“With your wrangles instead of punishing your PS you have punished the doctors.  Can you now tell Kenyans how you will have stay orders so that you tell the court that it is you who failed and not them?” asked a seemingly Irate Khalwale.

The CS chose to distance himself from the ruling saying the ruling was on contempt of court.

“You have failed this country, and if those doctors will not be out of jail today you have no business being in office. Step aside and let the country move forward,” said Nominated Senator Godliver Omondi.

The Senate committee was forced to adjourn for lack of a progress report from the Ministry of Health.

This comes just a day after seven Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU) officials were jailed for one month for contempt of court.

In a ruling by the Labour and Employment Court Judge Hellen Wasilwa, the doctors failed to demonstrate to court any new and compelling issue or pointed out any mistake or error apparent on the record or any sufficient cause that would warrant a review of the court’s order.

With failed attempts to resolve the 72-day doctors’ strike and some parties withdrawing from the negotiating table, Justice Wasilwa said that the court had no option but to effect the jail term.

Justice Wasilwa effected the jail term after suspending it on two previous occasions to allow the doctors’ union officials to continue with negotiation.

Meanwhile, the striking medics have promised to hold vigil outside Industrial Area and Langata prisons every night until their seven top union officials are released.

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Story By Wangui Ngechu
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