Health

KMPDU changes tune shortly after suspending 'Occupy Afya House' protests

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The union had planned to camp at Afya House until all medical interns were posted to health facilities nationwide in line with the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) sent the public into a state of confusion on Monday when it called off plans to occupy the Ministry of Health's headquarters at Afya House in Nairobi.

The union had planned to camp at Afya House until all medical interns were posted to health facilities nationwide in line with the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

However, on its official X handle, the union made a U-turn, attributing its change of heart to ongoing discussions to ensure that the CBA agreement is met.

"We remain vigilant and committed to achieving fair outcomes for all interns," the union said.

No sooner after announcing the suspension, the union pulled down the poster. This was followed by Davji Atellah, KMPDU Secretary General, reposting the 'Occupy Afya House' post.

Attellah on his social media pages explained the sudden changes, saying, "Reports circulating to the effect that #OccupyMoH has been suspended are false. The union handle has been compromised, and we are trying our best to gain control of it and clean."

"We must overhaul the system, including those that have hacked the union handles. We remain strong. We remain focused."

Last Friday, the union issued a notice stating that Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha’s broken promises were among the reasons for their planned march to Afya House.

This was based on the Return to Work Policy dated May 8, 2024, which was implemented following a 56-day doctors' strike. According to KMPDU, intern doctors were meant to receive their placement information by July 7, 2024.

A screengrab of KMPDU's deleted notice announcing the suspension of protests before making a u-turn on Monday, July 8, 2024.

The deadline was established in an agreement reached on May 8 and reaffirmed by CS Nakhumicha in a meeting at the State House with the president present.

"Based on the RTWF dated May 8, intern doctors were to collect their posting letters by July 7th, 2024. The same was promised to us by Nakhumicha in the presence of the president in the State House. We have therefore decided to occupy the MOH day and night starting on July 8," KMPDU said in the notice.

On May 17, CSNakhumicha held a meeting with KMPDU, where they discussed the pending issue of medical interns posting and agreed to explore a mutually agreeable solution that would see the interns posted as soon as possible.

"The government is expediting the full and speedy implementation of the return-to-work formula even as we continue to address other issues to ensure smooth delivery of health services," she said.

On May 8, doctors ended their 56-day nationwide strike after reaching a return-to-work formula agreement with the government. The agreement, which was signed by both the union and the government, marked the conclusion of the strike.

Atellah mentioned that they sought immediate posting of the intern doctors as per the CBA, whereas the government insisted on awaiting the court's litigation prior to implementing the agreement. Consequently, the doctor interns were instructed to anticipate a posting delay of at least 50 days.

Kenyan doctors chant as they march towards the health ministry headquarters, protesting with placards to demand better pay and working conditions in the capital, Nairobi, on April 9, 2024. (Photo: Simon Maina/AFP)

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