Kenya health ministry says deal signed to end doctors’ strikeWed, 08 May 2024 15:04:10 GMT

Kenya’s government has signed a deal with striking doctors, the health ministry announced Wednesday, after almost two months of industrial action that left thousands of patients struggling to find medical care.”After 56 days, @kmpdu signs agreement, ending nationwide doctors’ strike,” the ministry said on X, formerly Twitter, using the abbreviation for the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, which launched the action in mid-March in protest over pay.Details of the deal were not immediately available and there was no comment from the union about the agreed provisions. Talks had previously collapsed over the government’s refusal to pay medical interns higher salaries as stipulated in a 2017 agreement following an earlier strike.President William Ruto’s cabinet had previously said it was “unsustainable” to pay the interns, who make up about 30 percent of doctors, a monthly stipend of 206,000 Kenyan shillings ($1,530), and instead offered $530.But the doctors, numbering some 7,000 in total, had vowed not to return to the negotiating table if the agreed pay level was not restored.- Court order -A labour court had ordered the union to suspend the strike in March. It then set multiple deadlines for the standoff to be resolved, with the latest cut-off due to lapse on Wednesday.Strikes over working conditions in public hospitals are common in Kenya, leaving a trail of suffering and often triggering an exodus of Kenyan medics to other African countries and further afield.In 2017, doctors staged a 100-day nationwide strike that forced public hospitals to shut.Dozens of patients died from a lack of treatment during that walkout, which ended after the collective bargaining agreement was reached.But doctors accused the government of reneging on some parts of the deal, leading them to strike again this year.The eight weeks of industrial action threw Kenya’s public hospitals into crisis, running with a skeleton crew as patients scrambled to get treatment in the absence of doctors.Lobby groups voiced concern that expectant mothers were shouldering the biggest burden of the walkout, pointing to the dangers of managing cases requiring specialised care without doctors on hand.The Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya said last month it was considering taking legal action against those who had failed to resolve the issue.