Doctors drop private practice clause to harmonise their return to work as deadline knocks

Today is the 100th day for the striking doctors who kept off their work stations in push for a better remuneration and decent working environment.

 

The medics’ version of the return-to-work formula has now stricken off the contagious clause, which read:

“All medical doctors, pharmacists and dentists shall strictly adhere to their terms of employment in regard to engaging directly or indirectly in any other gainful employment and/or private practice as a partner, employee, consultant, director, manager, agent, associate or otherwise.”

In their renewed efforts, doctors now want the government to be compelled by law to pay them the three months salaries and arrears since December 5 last year, when they went on strike. Earlier, the government had vowed not to pay the striking doctors, as they had not worked over the last 100 days.

This means, therefore, that there are two conflicting return to work formulae between the government and the doctors, a likely thing to thwart efforts to end the strike.

Yesterday, their lawyer Philip Murgor explained that the clause that was expunged from the document filed in the Court of Appeal was “unconstitutional and discriminatory”.

Murgor, however, said that everything else in the document was agreeable to the doctors and that he hoped the government will sign the document today and end the 100-day strike.

Court of Appeal lay justices Hannah Okwengu, Martha Koome and Jamilla Mohammed had earlier given the parties a last chance to allow the doctors to sign the document.

“In light of the urgency and because of public interest, we are ready to give mediation a chance since poor Kenyans are suffering,” they said then.

Even though they pointed out that they were worried the talks had gone on for too long, the doctors pointed out that, indeed, various issues had already been resolved.

“Doctors are not able to go back to work because the RTWF has not been agreed on,” they added.

“Governors are ready to look at it but the (Health) ministry says it is no longer interested in negotiating.”

The judges sternly pointed out that the real issues that forced the doctors to go on strike had not been resolved and hinted at the possibility of referring the dispute to the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

But before then, they insisted that for the strike to be called off the RTWF must be signed by all parties despite protests by the Ministry of Health and the Attorney-General that there was no room for further negotiations.

“We appeal to all parties, including the ministry, to be guided by best interest of Kenyans, who are suffering for lack of public healthcare, put differences aside, their egos too,” the judges ruled.

They asked religious leaders to give guidance in a bid to bring a compromise and resolution to the matter, “therefore giving parties the chance to find compromise before case is mentioned today at 10.”

Before the ruling, Ms Stella Mbitho, for the ministry and the AG, told court that the government had withdrawn its offer and even discarded its copy of the RTWF since talks had failed to yield results.

She urged court to consider hearing the appeal by officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) on their jail sentence.

The withdrawal of the offer earlier issued to doctors by the government is likely to bring a new twist on the negotiations table, which was suspended anyway. Already public hospitals including Kenyatta National Hospital have sacked medics who took part in the industrial on its 100th day Tuesday.

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