CS Nakhumicha on firing striking doctors: 'Choices must have consequences'

CS Nakhumicha on firing striking doctors: 'Choices must have consequences'

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha. | PHOTO: @Nakhumicha_S/X

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha has warned that the government might resort to sacking striking doctors as the standoff between medics and her ministry persists.

Doctors have downed their tools since last week in protest of the government’s failure to post medical interns and the ministry’s non-adherence to doctors’ 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

But as the strike enters its eighth day on Thursday, Nakhumicha holds that the doctors are in violation of a court order directing them to suspend the strike and they risk losing their jobs for failure to report to work.

“They have been ordered by the court to suspend the strike; choices have consequences,” the health minister said on Wednesday night in an interview with KTN News.

Pressed on the same courts ordering the health ministry to implement a CBA, the CS defended the government, saying they have “implemented [it] to the extent possible.”

“If you are supposed to be on duty and you are not on duty, we have gotten somebody else to do the job,” Nakhumicha said, referring to her ministry’s announcement on Monday that medical interns will be posted from next month.

Asked whether this meant that the ministry was firing the striking doctors and replacing them with the thousands of interns waiting to be posted, she said, “What do you expect? I hired someone to do the job and allowed them to.”

“We have to put a measure in place; the places have to be manned and somebody has to take care of the patients so I cannot say since the doctors are on strike we will sit,” the minister said.

So far this week, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) and the government have held two meetings on the matter, but none has yielded the desired results.

Following Monday’s meeting, Nakhumicha said they had reached an agreement with KMPDU and that the National Treasury had given the green light on posting interns from April 1.

She also announced that her ministry will continue negotiations this week and that all pending dues per the 2017 CBA will be cleared per the court’s directives.

But KMPDU officials dismissed talk of a fruitful discussion, saying the strike is still on. They also objected to the interns’ remuneration.

‘RATIONAL THINKING’

The doctors have warned of a longer strike ahead based on the government's treatment of their concerns.

Both parties will meet at the negotiation table again on Thursday for a meeting convened by the Head of Public Service and enforced by the courts.

In Nakhumicha’s view, there is a need for rational thinking by the doctors in solving the deadlock ahead of the meeting, which is expected to find a solution to the deadlock that has plunged the health sector into a crisis.

“This is a place of rational thinking; they have even been called to a negotiation table by the head of public service. Isn’t this the place for them to come and pour out their issues?” the CS said on Wednesday.

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