Doctors' strike: KMPDU rejects government offer, says interns left out

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KMPDU Secretary-General Davji Atellah told the press that they must fight for interns, as they are the most vulnerable group in the profession.

The doctors' union has rejected the government's offer to address 18 out of its 19 demands, which leaves out the crucial matter of internship postings for medical graduates.

The medical workers resorted to industrial action on March 15, 2024, led by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU).

They are pushing for, among others, higher pay, improved working conditions, internship postings for medical graduates, as well as their adequate compensation, and the general fulfilment of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that followed a 100-day strike in 2017.

The KMPDU rejected the government's offer in response to statements released by various government officials in a press conference earlier on Tuesday. These were Council of Governors (CoG) Chairperson Anne Waiguru, Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha, and Head of Public Service Felix Koskei.

A nurse walks inside an ICU ward without patients on April 23, 2024, as doctors and medical practitioners under Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) continue with their strike to demand key health sector reforms. (Photo: Monicah Mwangi/Reuters)

KMPDU Secretary-General Davji Atellah told the press that they must fight for interns, as they are the most vulnerable group in the profession.

"Dear government, the doctors are saying that since you have publicly said that you conceded to 18 of our 19 demands (except internship), kindly take back the 18 and give us the 1," Atellah wrote on his X page.

KMDPU Deputy Secretary-General Denis Miskellah added that their instinct is to protect interns, in line with their training.

"The doctors are saying that [from] the Sh6.1 billion you have offered them, kindly take Sh3.4 billion and pay interns. We shall share the balance," he said.

The national and county governments threatened to fire and replace all striking doctors as the push and pull for them to return to work to end a worsening health crisis continued. They said they were heading to court to seek clearance to have the striking medics fired.

An activist holds a placard in front of riot police officers, as doctors and medical practitioners under the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) participate in a demonstration on April 16, 2024. (Photo: Monicah Mwangi/Reuters)

In her address, Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha said a sum of Sh2.4 billion would be held for the interns until June and be unavailable thereafter.

She also said that the offer of a Sh70,000 monthly payment for them remained, but the interns wanted about Sh200,000.

Miskellah said the government had agreed to secure Sh750 million for use in paying interns for three months and that the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) would take over from July.

"We also agreed that you would [provide] Sh200 million for harmonising the salary of the 81 doctors who are currently earning 1/3 of the salary at the Kenyatta National Hospital," Miskellah said.

He noted that the two issues were not captured in their agreement, hence the fracas.

The health crisis worsened on Tuesday, just a day after a late-Sunday night meeting at Koskei's Harambee House office, during which KMPDU and government representatives held discussions and resolved contentious issues related to the return-to-work agreement.

It had been anticipated that the KMPDU) would deliver a definitive response to the government's offers on Monday, after consulting with their council. The council was expected to approve the draft return-to-work formula, clearing the way for the union to sign it in the afternoon, but events did not unfold as planned.

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