Healthcare in jeopardy as doctors’ strike enters week two in Homa Bay County

Health services in public hospitals across Homa Bay County face an imminent collapse as a doctors’ strike enters its second week, leaving patients in dire need of medical assistance.

Over the past week, patients in public hospitals have grappled with obtaining medical help, as doctors refuse to attend to anyone until their grievances are addressed.

At the county teaching and referral hospital, clinical officers and nurses have stepped in to provide services, albeit without the motivation to work in the absence of doctors.

Officials from the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) revealed that the strike is a result of the Governor Gladys Wanga-led administration’s unwillingness to address their concerns.

KMPDU Nyanza chairman Onyango Ndong’a accused the county government of failing to implement an agreement signed in 2022, which promised to address various human resource issues affecting healthcare workers, including timely salary payments, promotions, and re-designation.

Doctors in Homa Bay have long felt stagnated in low-job groups without a clear path to promotion.

The medics are also demanding that the county government remit statutory deductions, alleging that funds, including those for the National Hospital Insurance Fund and National Social Security Fund, are not being sent to their respective agencies.

Dr Ndong’a emphasized that these issues must be resolved before the doctors can resume work, stating, “To dispel any rumours, none of the issues we discussed has been addressed, and this is very sad. The county government of Homa Bay has left its people to suffer because we cannot amicably agree on human resource issues that have been bedevilling these counts for more than 10 years.”

The union proposes that the county government devise a means to address issues affecting county staff promptly. KMPDU anticipates signing a return-to-work formula that will serve as the legal framework for future engagements.

Dr Ndong’a asserted that the industrial action will persist until all matters raised by the union are satisfactorily addressed and ratified by the Branch Executive Committee (BEC) and the National Executive Committee (NEC).

“We have been patient but none of the issues we had raised in our strike notice has been addressed. I sympathise with the patients and would not want to be in the same situation in the future,” Dr Ndong’a said.

A group of senior government officials led by County Secretary Prof Bernard Muok, Finance Executive Solomon Obiero, his chief officer Alphonce Wera and his counterpart from health Dr Kevin Osuri had last week tried to engage doctors in talks to avert the strike.

However, the team did not agree on issues raised by all healthcare workers.

The county government only got into an agreement with other unions- Kenya National Union of Nurses, clinical officers, laboratory technologists, nutritionists and others.

KMPDU liaison officer in Homa Bay Ochieng Otana said some doctors in the county were attending to emergency issues last week.

He told the group that was on duty not to go to work until the union had a comprehensive agreement with the county government.

According to the unionist, the county government is slow to respond to their grievances.

“Doctors’ strike will continue until issues that are most close to our hearts are addressed. It will result in total paralysis of services in public hospitals,” Dr Otana said.

Services significantly affected by the strike include surgery, specialist services, and consultancy.

KMPDU implored Governor Wanga to expedite actions to alleviate the suffering experienced by residents due to the ongoing strike.

Dr Osuri affirmed that talks with doctors would precede any solution proposed by the county government to end the health workers’ strike.

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