Government Orders Striking Doctors to Negotiate or With Counties and Hospitals

Head of Public Service Felix Koskei speaking during a meeting with Principal Secretaries and Accounting Officers on January 10, 2024.
Felix Koskei

The national government has now issued yet another directive in a bid to tame the ongoing doctors' strike that has now been linked to over 500 deaths, urging healthcare professionals to resume negotiations with their respective county administrations.

This directive, issued by the Head of Public Service, Felix Koskei, comes as tensions escalate with some counties threatening dismissal of non-compliant doctors.

During a press briefing, Koskei highlighted the readiness of county governments to engage in negotiations for collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and stressed the importance of prompt return to the negotiation table. "The counties are prepared to negotiate," he affirmed, emphasizing the significance of dialogue in resolving the crisis.

The strike, which has seen varying levels of participation across the 47 counties, has resulted in a patchwork of responses from local governments.

A collage of Governors Anyang Nyong'o, Kimani Wamatangi, and Mithumi Njuki.
Nyong'o, Wmatangi, Njuki

While Laikipia, Nyandarua, and Uasin Gishu report full operation in their healthcare facilities, Nyeri county has taken a harsher stance by dismissing 60 doctors who joined the strike.

Other counties, including Kakamega, Kiambu, Tharaka Nithi, Kilifi, and Kisumu, have set a stern deadline for striking doctors. These doctors have been given until Monday, April 15, to return to their duties or face termination of their contracts.

Highlighting the national impact of the strike, it was revealed that more than 500 people have died due to the lack of medical services, a situation that has intensified public outcry and calls for urgent government action.

The Kenyatta National Hospital along with Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral, and Research Hospital (KUTRRH), and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, are among the major national healthcare providers also ready to engage with their medical staff to end the impasse.

Despite the government's call for negotiations, it had issued a warning to striking doctors on Thursday, giving them 24 hours to call off the strike or face disciplinary action.

This ultimatum was communicated through a confidential letter sent to the KMPDU Secretary-General, Davji Atellah, urging compliance with a court order.

It stressed compliance with an order from the Principal Judge of the Employment and Labour Relations Court of Kenya, Byram Ongaya, who tasked the Whole of Nation Approach Committee with resolving the dispute.

The letter explicitly instructed the KMPDU to suspend the strike within 24 hours to allow the committee to convene and seek a lasting resolution. Failure to comply with these directives could result in further legal and professional repercussions for the striking doctors.

The National Assembly Labour Committee, chaired by Eric Muchangi Njiru, also stepped into the fray, urging both parties to find a resolution quickly. They have scheduled a meeting on Thursday, April 18, with the involved parties if the strike persists.

Health CS Susan Nakhumicha, KMPDU Secretary General Devji Atella pose for a photo a.jpg
Health CS Susan Nakhumicha (centre), KMPDU Secretary General Devji Atella (second right) pose for a photo at Afya House on Friday, December 30, 2022.
Ministry of Health
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