Labour Court Orders KMPDU Striking Doctors Back to Work

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

The Employment and Labour Relations Court on Wednesday, ordered Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union (KMPDU) doctors to return to work to tend to emergencies.

In his ruling, Judge Byrum Ongaya ordered KMPDU to ensure doctors of different cadres are in public hospitals to handle emergencies. The decision ends the doctors' strike that started on March 13.

The judge was informed that the government and the doctors had reached a return-to-work formula within 30 days. 

Public discontent had been growing, with patients bearing the brunt of the impasse. 

The Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumincha had told Members of Parliament that an assessment by the Ministry of Health indicated that the doctors' strike had left referral hospitals operating and only 33 per cent capacity among outpatients and a mare 25 per cent among specialist services.

The breakthrough comes as legislators on Wednesday, put Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumincha to task to answer why the government has yet to find a resolution to the CBA, but the CS insisted at the national level, the government has done its part, especially to meet the doctor's demands regarding the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The standoff has intensified between the national and county governments and the KMPDU, deepening the healthcare crisis.

The heart of the dispute revolves around a 2017 CBA which the doctors claim the government has failed to honour.

Despite the government's assertion of financial constraints preventing them from meeting the doctors' demands, CS Nakhumicha indicated that discussions for a new CBA are underway.

While fielding questions from Senators, Nakhumicha expressed the government's readiness to negotiate since the 2017 agreement is considered lapsed.

However, the government has been criticised for allegedly signing the initial agreement under duress, a claim complicating current negotiations.

Dr. Davji Atellah, the KMPDU Secretary General, has vocally criticised the government's stance on financial limitations, suggesting that officials should reconsider their own salaries before declaring a fiscal crisis in healthcare. "We are ready to get into this balloon and burst with it," Atellah stated, emphasising the doctors' determination.

In a meeting with union leaders last year, including those from the Treasury, Nakhumicha reiterated the government's commitment to implementing parts of the CBA signed for the period 2017-2021. This includes the payment of basic salary arrears and providing comprehensive medical cover for healthcare workers under the national government.

Yet, the national government has offloaded some responsibilities to the counties, leading to a fragmented response.

The Council of Governors (CoG), chaired by Anne Waiguru, has resisted taking on the financial burden of the 2017 CBA, arguing that it would set a precedent affecting all county employees.

Waiguru pointed out that for the counties to carry out the CBA, more funding from the national treasury is required. "The ripple effect on all civil servants' basic pay is untenable without further support," she stated.

Despite the apparent deadlock, the government and counties face increasing pressure as the strike continues. The Council of Governors announced they will take disciplinary actions against striking doctors. Some counties like Nyeri have already fired 60 doctors. 

  • .