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Striking Kenya doctors told to return to work or be fired

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A picture taken on December 8, 2016 shows an empty and unstaffed ward at the Kisumu County Hospital in Kisumu. Kenyan medics and hospitals workers have embarked on a nationwide strike. Unions are demanding a 300-percent pay rise for doctors and 25- to 40-percent pay rise for nurses that they say was agreed in a 2013 collective bargaining agreement, but has yet to be implemented. Several patients have died as a result of lack of care in public hospitals, many of which are completely unstaffed. Kenyans have been directed to private clinics that are unaffordable to the majority of the population.   / AFP PHOTO / James KAYEE

A picture taken on December 8, 2016 shows an empty and unstaffed ward at the Kisumu County Hospital in Kisumu.<br />Kenyan medics and hospitals workers have embarked on a nationwide strike. Unions are demanding a 300-percent pay rise for doctors and 25- to 40-percent pay rise for nurses that they say was agreed in a 2013 collective bargaining agreement, but has yet to be implemented. Several patients have died as a result of lack of care in public hospitals, many of which are completely unstaffed. Kenyans have been directed to private clinics that are unaffordable to the majority of the population. / AFP PHOTO / James KAYEE

Thousands of Kenyan doctors who have been on strike for over a month risk being fired if they do not return to work by Wednesday, government officials said.

The walkout by Kenyan doctors and nurses since December 5 has devastated public health services in the east African nation, where few can afford private care.

The medics on Friday rejected a 40 percent pay rise offer from the government, demanding the full implementation of a 2013 collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which assured them a 300 percent raise and other improved conditions.

“We are calling upon the doctors again, to take the offer by the government and resume work,” said Peter Munya, the chairman of the country’s Council of Governors.

“We have agreed that those who don’t resume work, then the process of taking disciplinary action against them begins on Wednesday.”

Munya said the doctors would be issued with dismissal letters, and their vacant positions advertised.

“Striking doctors should consider the plight of Kenyans in public hospitals and resume work. The county and national government has given a very reasonable offer which they need to consider,” he added.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) has argued that the offer failed to take into account other agreements mentioned in the CBA, from the need to better equip hospitals to funding research and addressing the security of doctors at work.

However the government has brushed aside the CBA, calling it defective as it did not have “input and blessings” from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission — a constitutional body set up in 2010 to review the salaries of public servants.

The strike has been a major embarrassment for President Uhuru Kenyatta in the run up to August elections in which he hopes to win a second term in office.

Newspaper editorials have urged the government to give the poorly paid doctors a decent wage while Kenyans on Twitter point to endless corruption scandals while healthcare providers struggle to make ends meet.

The latest move to outrage the union was a decision by lawmakers just before Christmas to award themselves 10 million shillings ($95,000) each as an exit package ahead of the elections.

“When the government loots it has no limits but when doctors ask for fair pay the president says he has limits,” the union tweeted last week.


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