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HomeHealthState Takes U-turn, Expresses Willingness to Hold Talks with Striking Doctors in...

State Takes U-turn, Expresses Willingness to Hold Talks with Striking Doctors in 24 Hours

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The Attorney General’s office has reversed its stance and announced its readiness to engage in a meeting with the striking doctors within the next 24 hours. However, this offer comes with a condition: the doctors must suspend their nationwide strike.

Lead counsel Ochieng Oduol and Oscar Eredi informed Justice Byrum Ongaya that coordination for the meeting will be handled by the head of public services, and all the concerns raised by the striking doctors will be addressed.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), which represents over 7,000 members, initiated the strike on March 15. The aim of the strike is to demand payment of salary arrears, adequate medical insurance coverage for the doctors, and the immediate employment of trainee doctors (1,200 medical interns), among other grievances. These terms were stipulated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2017 between the county governments and the union.

Initially, during Wednesday’s proceedings, the state requested a 30-day extension to continue the talks. However, the union, represented by Edgar Wachuka, informed the court that the meetings had not been taking place as expected.

“The employer has consistently imposed conditions on the meetings, which has prevented them from happening. We are seeking an unconditional meeting with the employer to establish a return-to-work formula,” Wachuka stated.

He further revealed that since their last court appearance on April 3, only two meetings had taken place, on April 12 and April 15, to demonstrate the lack of progress.

Wachuka also pointed out that there had been no discussion regarding the proposal from the Ministry of Health, which was received on April 15 and outlined the numbers and cadres of medical professionals but did not specify the emergency services. The parties had not engaged with this proposal.

When questioned by the judge about the doctors’ strike status, Wachuka responded, “That’s a matter of evidence. At this point, it is an allegation. My clients have complied with the court order.” He added that the doctors had been participating in protests.

Wachuka further stated that he had not been served with any of the reports presented by the Ministry of Health, including the nationwide report indicating minimum services and the conciliators’ report. These reports were requested by the court to assess the status and progress of the negotiations.

James Kounah, representing Kenyatta National Hospital, confirmed that they had attended conciliation meetings and made some progress but had not reached an agreement on financial matters. He emphasized that a minimum of 75% of doctors should be present in hospitals to ensure minimum service provision, even during a strike.

Kounah stressed the urgency of concluding the matter promptly to prevent loss of life.

The court is set to deliver its ruling at 3 p.m.

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