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Doctors reject government’s offer to end strike

Kenyan public hospital doctors rejected a government offer aimed at ending a weeks-long strike that has severely disrupted health services, their union chairman said late on Tuesday.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), which represents more than 7,000 members, went on strike on March 15 to demand payment of their salary arrears and the immediate hiring of trainee doctors, among other grievances.

The government asked the doctors to end their strike in a statement issued late on Tuesday, saying the salary arrears have been paid and that trainee doctors would be hired from Thursday this week at a cost of 2.4 billion shillings ($18.39 million).

“We decline these proposals in total,” Abidan Mwachi, KMPDU’s chairman, wrote on social media platform X, adding that the government had not paid salary arrears.

The walkout, which has been compounded by a strike by clinical officers that started this week, has left patients struggling to access care from expensive private hospitals, leading to worsening chronic illnesses and even deaths.

In Nairobi’s Mathare slum, Jane Akoth said that she was turned away from the hospital on Tuesday when she went to get an operation for her daughter Beatrice Akinyi, who was diagnosed with cancer last year.

In the eastern county of Tharaka Nithi, an area member of parliament was quoted by The Standard newspaper as saying the one-year-old daughter of one of his constituents had died due to a lack of healthcare arising from the strike.

The arrears the doctors are demanding arose from a 2017 collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the union said. Doctors are also demanding the provision of adequate medical insurance cover for themselves and their dependants.

It also wants the government to address frequent delays in salary payments and to start paying doctors who work in public hospitals as part of their higher degree courses.

Kenya’s health sector, which doctors say is underfunded and understaffed, is routinely beset by strikes.

A previous walkout in 2017 lasted three months and some doctors in individual hospitals downed their tools at various times during the COVID-19 pandemic to protest at a lack of personal protective equipment and over other grievances.

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