TIMES OF DESPERATION! Gov’t deploys KDF doctors to hospitals


The government has now deployed the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) doctors to attend to emergency cases at the country’s largest referral hospital – Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) even as the doctors’ and nurses’ strike enters the fifth day.

The decision by the government was orchestrated by the move by 200 consultants attached to the hospital joined their striking colleagues to push for the implementation of the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that awarded them a 300% pay increment and agreed to employ more doctors and nurses to reduce their workload and doctor to patient ratio from the current 1:16,000.

Industrial action by health workers is relatively rare but emanates from reasons such as dissatisfaction over pay and many medics feeling undervalued and overworked.

During such periods, agony, misery and pain are all written on the faces of the patients who are in most cases turned away or left unattended.

The strike by the health workers has dealt a major blow to thousands of patients since the country’s largest population depends on public health facilities.

There has a marked reduction in various other activities at the health centres despite the increasing distress among patients and their caretakers.

The strike may be fairly short but the effects are more prolonged and extensive.

For many people, a strike by doctors and nurses is inconsistent with their over-riding duty to advocate for their patients. Doctors’ strikes also inevitably expose patients to risk of serious harm.

The current situation has been further complicated as the health workers are opposing policies that are perceived to threaten the standard of care they are able to deliver which include long working hours and shortage of staff in public facilities.

Strikes by doctors highlight the conflict between doctors’ rights as employees and their duty to patients. They are, however, a global phenomenon, with strikes having been reported in Ghana, Australia and India in the past years.

They, however, highlight the straining relationship between the government and civil servants over pay and working conditions.

The decision by consultants attached to the Kenyatta National Hospital to down tools in solidarity with their striking colleagues serves to paint the gravity of the matter.

The government and the health workers’ unions have maintained hardliner stances with each faction advancing its interests.

Talks between the government and these unions have failed severally with patients left to die and others turned away.

On Friday, December 9, President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed optimism that they would reach a deal with the striking doctors.

The deployment of KDF doctors to attend to patients is just but a temporary solution. What the country needs is a lasting solution that will prevent such industrial actions from occurring in the future.

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Story By Koome Kimonye
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