health crisis

Health Crisis in Kenya: We are all on strike.

There was time when being a professional was a badge of honour; but with the health crisis, we are not so certain anymore.

On December 9, 2016, I opined, in a contribution to The Deuteronomy, one titled Doctors Call The Shots, that;

“…recent events in both countries have illustrated to us that, amongst others, both governments in both countries are not really interested in applying themselves to their own, respective legislations. The government, in most countries, is noted as the best or the biggest employer. It is, therefore, rather quite disappointing that some of its most important employees have been reduced to striking. 2016 has been both an engaging and consuming year for medical practitioners on either sides of the border. In Kenya, doctors have either been teargassed, or have threatened to shut private hospitals, or have had to abandon their patients (like that sick orphan baby), or have had to desert hospitals during their ongoing strike.”

In that article, I had found, from the law and the status quo then, and the solutions I suggested what I thought ought to be done to help doctors-cum-rioters off the streets.

It is February, 2016, and nothing much has changed since December, 2016. A lot of concern has been directed towards doctors who, about 4000 of them, are leaving the profession, doctors whose lives have been described as terrible, and doctors who have resigned due to frustration.

Before, during, and probably after the strike, doctors have continued operating under the most mundane circumstances. They do not have oxygen, sutures, and sometimes not even electricity. There have been reports of cases where doctors have had to operate with just a torch of light.

Over the same span of time, the medical doctor’s union officers have been sentenced to jail – for contempt of court, and released after an appeal was lodged in the court of appeal, both happening while Kenya has maintained its position as number 140 on the World Health Organisation Ranking: The World’s Health Systems.

Doctors, whom I find to be the government’s most important employees – for the success or development of a nation is wholly founded on the health of its citizens, have taken to the streets to apparently win over the sympathy and support of the public and most importantly, to demonstrate their disappointment which results from their own misfortunes. While on the streets, they have not been able to perform their cardinal duty as professionals, which is to serve.

To be able to serve, professionals have got to be catered for. This apparently not-about-to-end strike, however, is an illustration that they are not. An agreement, signed in 2013, by the Government of Kenya and the Kenya Medical Practitioner’s Union, to provide for a pay rise (from the average of KSH 40,000 before taxable deductions), to review working conditions, job structures, criteria for promotions, and to address understaffing in state hospitals, has not been implemented.

The current conditions are the perfect representation of that dilemma. For example, there is only one doctor for more than 16,000 Kenyans. What the doctor’s union fancies is, definitely, more doctors being hired to reduce the doctor-patient ratio.

Without a doubt, this strike of medics which by now has stretched from young, interning medics in Mbarara, Uganda, to the ocean front in Lamu, Kenya affects not only doctors – directly, but every one of us of as well.

If doctors, the brilliant professionals who have trained well enough, just to take care of us are not in their hospitals but out on the streets or home, then we will not be taken care of when we need it the most.

The recent jailing of the medical doctor’s union officials is an indictment on the entire profession. Releasing them, only to engage them in negotiations with the government, especially now when the August 2017 general elections are nearing, is another good one from the book of politricks.

We are, by inclusion, all on strike.


This article appears in our weekly digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 2, Issue 4 of February 25th 2017

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