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FIEL PHOTO: Kenyan President William Ruto. /CFP

Kenyan President calls for understanding amid ongoing doctors’ strike

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Kenyan President William Ruto said on Sunday there is no money to pay striking doctors as the industrial action entered its fourth week with both government and medical workers failing to reach an agreement on how to end the stalemate.

Ruto, however, appealed to the medical workers to understand that there is a limit to what the government can spend on their salaries and allowances.

“The resources we have are only sufficient to pay 70,000 shillings (about 539 U.S. dollars) for intern doctors. This is not a salary; it is a stipend for only one year. Afterwards, they will be employed,” he said during a church service in Eldoret, about 260 km west of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

The medical workers, who called for their national strike on March 14, are pushing the government to employ medical interns in the right job group, implement a salary rise, offer them comprehensive medical coverage, pay for their post-graduate training and employ over 50,000 jobless doctors.

The strike has paralyzed health services across the country and the medical workers have insisted the strike will continue until the government addresses their grievances.

The president said the government has the funds needed to absorb all 1,500 doctor interns at 539 USD a month. “As a nation, we must agree that we must live within our means. We cannot continue to spend the money we do not have,” he added.

Ruto said Kenyans must honestly discuss the issues affecting the country, promising to lead from the front.

The president announced that Kenya will host a conference to address the nation’s wage bill between April 15 and 17.

The union expects the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to be implemented first and for the interns to be paid according to the terms of the agreement.

Susan Nakhumicha, cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Health, however, has maintained that the ministry lacks sufficient funding to pay the amount doctors are pushing for.

The government is currently pushing for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by increasing the population covered by health insurance to 100 percent to reduce out-of-pocket household expenditures.

The doctors’ strike, however, threatens this initiative, which is expected to start in June.

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