Doctor's union officials get reprieve after court extends jail sentence ultimatum

Court offers a grace period of five working days, giving room for negotiations.

This comes in the wake of the lapse of the ultimatum issued by the Labour Court in Nairobi, a week ago, the local media reports.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union, KMPDU led by its Secretary General Dr. Ouma Oluga, Thursday filed a petition in the Labour Court stopping the initial court order for their arrest and detention for one month on failure to resume negotiations to end the 8-week-running stalemate.

The seven officials, who went down on their like beggars do at the Kenya’s capital Nairobi Railways Club, said they want nothing short of the implementation of the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Labour Court, however, trolled a trudge declaring the CBA null and void in December last year, few days after the start of the doctor’s strike.

"We will not go back to hospitals that are not well-equipped and work in poor conditions. There is no doctor who is wrongfully on strike," Obstetrics and gynaecologist Nelly Bosire told the local press.

Ballooning wage bill

On the other side, however, speaking on a local television, Finance Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich rubbished the contentious CBA being pushed by the doctors saying the government cannot meet the ballooned wage bill for the striking doctors. He has instead advised doctors to seek for other jobs, which could be well paying to them.

“The impact of the government offer on the exchequer will be an additional expenditure of Ksh 4 billion annually – shared among the nation’s 5,000 doctors,”  Mr. Rotich told a local television.

Already hundreds of thousands of Kenyans have turned to home care and use of private facilities to seek treatment, a move they say is expensive compared to receiving treatment from the public facilities.

The public facilities currently only have the nurses who, on spot-check by P Live Kenya, cannot execute specialized services related to operations and dire emergencies.

Doctors working in mission hospitals are overwhelmed by the high number of patients thronging to seek medical attention.

President Uhuru Kenyatta offered doctors a 40 per cent salary increase but the doctors turned down the offer on grounds that it was not in line with the CBA. The contested CBA outline the revamping of working conditions for doctors, allowances and other incentives to student doctors who serve on internship.

This is not the first time doctors are on a nationwide strike across the country. In 2011, hundreds of doctors from public medical facilities thronged and marched the Kenyan capital, Nairobi to demand for a larger stock of drugs in their hospitals, better equipment and better pay.

This impasse, however, was agreed into a Collective Bargaining Agreement, CBA, which is now contested. The government maintains that the document has no legal binding.

On Thursday, the Court offered a grace period of five working days to give room for the doctors before they are jailed for failing to honor the court.

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