Kenyan hospitals sack doctors over 96-day strike

Elsa Buchanan
Kenyan doctors on strike

Kenyan hospitals have begun the process of sacking doctors and evicting them from the premises following a 96-day strike that has crippled public health services.

The doctors union (KMPDU) began a strike on 5 December 2016 over the government's failure to implement a pay package conforming to an agreement signed in 2013.

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As the strike lengthened, President Uhuru Kenyatta urged the medics to return to duty, and the doctors were last month given an ultimatum to report to work or be sacked.

Earlier this week the government backtracked after religious leaders negotiated a deal between them and union officials, but doctors said they would return to work as soon as the agreement was signed.

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On 9 March, however, hospitals started carrying out disciplinary measures, and the first sackings began, despite KMPDU saying they had now signed the documents needed to end their three-month strike.

The union said it was now waiting for the government to sign the deal, but officials argue the deadline for accepting a new pay rise offer passed on 7 March. The offer was a 50% pay rise – below the 300% demanded by doctors.

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The country's top referral facility, Kenyatta National Hospital, has already sent home 12 doctors.

President Kenyatta on 7 March said he was committed to a "fair resolution" to the dispute. In a video posted on his Twitter account, the head of state said: "It is time for doctors to uphold their oath to protect life, and to uphold the principle of fairness."

He added: "Fairness to you as doctors cannot come at the expense of fairness to other Kenyans. Your duty is to serve all, to protect and to care for all." Claiming doctors were being offered "more money than even doctors in the private sector receive", Kenyatta added that the doctors' demands for pay increase and better working conditions were tantamount to blackmail.

The 2013 collective bargaining agreement promised to set terms of work, increase the number of doctors, deliver a 300% pay increase and increase research funds, drugs and equipment in public hospitals. The agreement was never implemented.

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