Kenyans doctors suspend strike for 14 days to allow dialogue

A doctor dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE) prepares a swab to test a patient for Covid-19 at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, on Friday, April 24, 2020. The East African country enforced a curfew as part of measures to reduce the risk of contagion amid fears that Covid-19 patients will overrun its health system. Photographer: Patrick Meinhardt/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kenya’s health care sector can breathe a temporary sigh of relief after the doctors’ union suspended a nationwide strike which was due to begin on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A doctor dressed in personal protective equipment prepares a swab to test a patient for Covid-19 at a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. (Photographer: Patrick Meinhardt/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The strike was postponed for 14 days to give room for negotiations following a request by the health committees of both Houses of parliament.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) had issued a 21-day strike notice last month demanding to have their grievances addressed.

Some of the issues raised in the notice included demands for adequate medical insurance and better employment terms for doctors, formation of a constitutional Health Services Commission and provision of personal protective equipment among others.

“The union acknowledges the efforts of the two houses of parliament (National Assembly and Senate) to resolve the grievances raised in the strike notice dated 16th November 2020. We acknowledge the goodwill of the Kenyan doctors and the public,” a statement signed by KMPDU acting secretary-general Dr. Chibanzi Mwachonda said.

“KMPDU looks forward to the meetings set for 9th and 10th December by the Senate and National Assembly Health committees respectively.”

However, the KMPDU warned that the strike would start on December 21 if the issues raised will remain unresolved following the expiry of the stated period.

Strikes by health workers in the East African country are not uncommon with demands for better pay, improved staffing and shortages of equipment being agitated for.

In August, doctors in most public hospitals in the capital Nairobi went on strike to protest against delayed salaries and a lack of protective equipment when handling patients who may have COVID-19.

The chairperson of the National Assembly Health Committee, Sabina Chege, previously stated that the country could not risk having doctors on a go-slow during a period when there are several challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic.

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