A pleading Health Cabinet Secretary has asked the striking medical workers to reconsider, and change the “sad situation”.
Speaking at Afya House on Tuesday, CS Mutahi Kagwe said the union officials should suspend their strike to allow for negotiations.
The medics’ strike continued to bite as Kenya today recorded 154 new coronavirus cases from a sample size of 3,262; out of which 141 are Kenyans and 13 are foreigners.
Three people succumbed to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, pushing the fatality tally to 1,647.
The CS said the Health dockets in counties as well as the national government might consider hiring new medics and abandon striking ones.
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According to Kagwe, it is only Kenyan health workers that have gone on strike during a pandemic. “It’s sad…It’s sad”.
Some of the medics’ demands include the enhancement of allowances, which the CS said must be approved by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. He added that contractual engagements are recognised by law and parties need to be guided by the terms of agreement.
Kagwe said the formation of a commission should not be more important than taking care of a woman who is about to deliver.
“You abandon her because a commission has not been formed, it’s sad … To see a child walk into a hospital and because [your] promotion has not been effected, you watch the child die, it’s sad. Delays in salaries happen across the country.”
It was a heartbreaking story of pain and anguish in public hospitals across the country on Monday after 7,200 doctors joined nurses and other medics in downing tools until the government meet their demands.
With medics vowing they will only return to work after the government has addressed all their concerns, millions of Kenyans are now own their own.
But Kagwe said most of the demands have been met, urging union officials to accept that it’s impossible to meet every demand.
“Some healthcare workers have chosen to down tools and deny Kenyans the much-needed healthcare service at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Delays on third party deductions are as a result of exchequer delays from the National Treasury. Counties rely on bank overdrafts to ensure salary is paid on time. However, overdrafts cannot cover remittance of statutory deductions due to the huge monetary implication.
On payment of allowances, discussions are underway with regular team meetings.
“I am perturbed by the demand that a bonus given on the basis of goodwill and as a thank you by the President to healthcare workers is now being demanded to be a permanent [offer in] future. It is difficult to fathom this. It is akin to somebody giving you a Christmas present then you demand that it must now be given to you every day.”
On hiring more staff, unions want specific numbers of healthcare workers, but it is not attainable because of the strained resources in the economy.
But in the last six months, county governments with the MoH and the Public Service Commission have recruited 9,858 officers in various cadres for three years under the Universal Healthcare programme.
Others are 118 medical officers, 14 pharmacists, 5 epidemiologists, 118 clinical psychologists, nurses, medical lab technolgists, specialised COs, health workers to specifically fight Covid, among others.
CS Kagwe added that both the national and county governments will provide PPEs. “Medics asked to go to work without PPEs should not do it.”
He went on to say that no county has said they have run out of PPEs and lacked support. “Counties say they have stock.”
According to the CS all counties have provided comprehensive cover for their workers, including medics.
Some 473 contractual Covid workers as of November 2020 have their details shared for comprehensive medical cover by NHIF.
Admitting that there had been significant strides in addressing the medics’ strike, the unions were encouraged to reach out to the county departments of health and to move from rhetoric.