Raila Odinga Weighs In On Doctors Strike, Advices on How Much Interns Should be Paid

Ezra Manyibe | 1 month ago
File image of ODM Leader Raila Odinga. |Courtesy| The Standard|

ODM Leader Raila Odinga has finally addressed the ongoing nationwide doctors' strike that has since left public medical facilities deserted and patients facing insurmountable pain due to lack of care.

While attending the ODM National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Nairobi on Thursday, April 11, 2024, Odinga urged the government and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) to reach an agreement and return to caring for ailing Kenyans.

The former premier adviced the government to honor the existing 2007/2012 Collective Bargain Agreement that required medical interns to be compensated Ksh206,000 per month. He differed with President William Ruto's proposal of Ksh70,000 per month for the interns.

"For the last seven years, interns have been earning Ksh.206,000 per month. These are actually the doctors running Level IV and many other public hospitals. There is no way an employer can reduce the salaries of employees mid-stream," Odinga said.

"We ask the government to reinstate the Ksh.206,000 pay for interns until the next CBA negotiations, which is around the corner, kicks in. In that next round of negotiations both parties should put their cases on the table for consideration."

The ODM leader proceeded to call out the government for its failure to pay fees and salaries for doctors currently furthering their education.

According to Odinga, Counties are supposed to pay salaries of doctors who are enrolled for further studies while the Ministry of Health is supposed to pay fees.

"My understanding is that while counties have kept their side of the arrangement, MoH has failed to do so since 2018. As a result, a number of doctors cannot complete their studies and graduate because of fees owed," he said.

"As they retake courses, counties have stopped their salaries because those doctors have overstayed in college. MoH must immediately engage the doctors and the institutions with a view of clearing the fee balance and enable the doctors complete their studies. MoH must also engage counties to resolve the issue of pay for doctors who have overstayed in college through mistakes not of their own making."

Odinga adviced county governments against hiring doctors on short term contracts, claiming it subverts employment labour laws as stipulated in the constitution. He also urged both levels of government to ensure equal pay for the medics.

"Doctors are complaining about a free-for-all system where some employers have free will to decide what to pay. The result has been a very unequal system where doctors hired to do same jobs, experience a huge variation in salaries. The medical profession is too important to be managed such casually. The ministry must intervene for the doctors," he said.

Odinga also urged counties that have already suspended or terminated the employment of medics who joined the nationwide strike to reconsider.

"I believe if these actions are taken in consultation with KMPDU, we’ll be able to avert the crisis that is building up in the health sector and pave way for less antagonistic engagement. This is a crisis that has serious ramifications. 

"We want this resolved. We had not spoken before and we want the government to take notice because we cannot remain silent for a longer time when this is persisting. We ask them to act now and if they don't, the consequences will be grave," Odinga stated.

Odinga's sentiments comes days after the ODM Party threatened to join the ongoing doctors' strike, accusing the government of failing to amicably address issues affecting the medics.

On the other hand, the government has maintained a tough stance on the negotiations. On Thursday, Head of Public Service Felix Koskei asked the medics to call off the strike first before negotiations can resume.

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