Why Kenya Must Resolve Its Doctors Strike Now

When was the last time you were in a hos­pi­tal as a patient? Walk­ing into those hos­pi­tal cor­ri­dors, you were seek­ing heal­ing from an ail­ment. If you hap­pened to sit across from a white-coat­ed doc­tor and explained your symp­toms, you prob­a­bly hung on every word they uttered in response. Maybe some tests were done, and there­after, the doc­tor gave you a diag­no­sis and pre­scrip­tion. A few days or weeks lat­er, you were ful­ly healed, thanks to this inter­ac­tion. This scene plays out hun­dreds of thou­sands of times across Kenya every sin­gle day in pub­lic hos­pi­tals. But for the last fifty days, it has hap­pened zero times due to the ongo­ing strike. Patients are deeply stressed and regret­tably, some have lost their lives.

This sit­u­a­tion has weighed heav­i­ly on my mind, com­pelling me to write. The urgent need to under­stand this strike must be matched by imme­di­ate action from all Kenyans of good­will, par­tic­u­lar­ly the doc­tors and gov­ern­ment, to bring it to an end.

On one side, the med­ical doc­tors who I hold in high regard are not only jus­ti­fied in their strike but dri­ven by a deep pas­sion root­ed in their pro­fes­sion. The gen­e­sis of their dis­con­tent traces back to a Col­lec­tive Bar­gain­ing Agree­ment (CBA) signed in 2017, which remains unful­filled. Gov­ern­ments whether coun­ty or nation­al are con­tin­u­ous, regard­less of regime changes — thus, the oblig­a­tions of past admin­is­tra­tions extend beyond their tenure.

These doc­tors, many of whom oper­ate at Coun­ty Lev­els 4, 5, and 6, are often the back­bone of our health­care sys­tem, rou­tine­ly endur­ing 36-hour shifts. They are her­ald­ed not only for their med­ical acu­men but for their ded­i­ca­tion. Their union’s strength under­scores a col­lec­tive voice that can­not be ignored, par­tic­u­lar­ly when con­trast­ed with the high salaries paid to for­eign med­ical prac­ti­tion­ers when­ev­er brought into the country.

Con­verse­ly, I feel the gov­ern­men­t’s stance, though seem­ing­ly rigid, is not with­out mer­it. Finan­cial con­straints in the cur­rent eco­nom­ic cli­mate have tight­ened the nation­al purse strings, mak­ing it chal­leng­ing to meet all union demands. The fear that resolv­ing this strike might set a prece­dent, poten­tial­ly trig­ger­ing a series of labor actions across var­i­ous sec­tors, is pal­pa­ble with­in the cor­ri­dors of pow­er. Addi­tion­al­ly, there’s a polit­i­cal dimension—emotional appeals are made to demon­strate care for patients, per­haps mask­ing deep­er sys­temic issues.

The real vic­tims of this impasse are Kenyan cit­i­zens, espe­cial­ly those with­out com­pre­hen­sive med­ical cov­er­age, who now lack essen­tial health services.

Accord­ing to the Kenya Bureau of sta­tis­tics, only one out of four Kenyans has some form of health insur­ance. This means afford­able pub­lic hos­pi­tals are the only recourse for most Kenyans. As such, both par­ties must recon­vene with a renewed sense of urgency and a soft­ened stance.

It’s cru­cial for the med­ical fra­ter­ni­ty to acknowl­edge the broad­er eco­nom­ic chal­lenges and the rip­ple effects of their strike. Fur­ther, the gov­ern­ment must be trans­par­ent about its finan­cial con­straints and nego­ti­ate with the utmost good faith. After all, a breach of trust in any rela­tion­ship, espe­cial­ly one as crit­i­cal as this, can have dire con­se­quences. Isn’t that true?

Both par­ties must address a cru­cial ques­tion — should the entire med­ical work­ing ecosys­tem be reeval­u­at­ed and over­hauled? Why do some doc­tors endure 36-hour shifts while oth­ers work only 6 hours in this era of Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence? More­over, why do con­sul­tants face greater legal respon­si­bil­i­ties before the Med­ical Board, while interns may escape account­abil­i­ty for seri­ous patient mis­han­dling? Is it not time for out-of-the-box thinking?

As we nav­i­gate these trou­bled waters, we must all think green and act green. This isn’t just about envi­ron­men­tal con­scious­ness but about nur­tur­ing a sus­tain­able future for all sec­tors in Kenya, includ­ing health­care. Our actions today will deter­mine the health of our nation tomorrow.

Mean­while, I pas­sion­ate­ly urge both par­ties to act with urgency and com­pas­sion, find­ing a mid­dle ground where doc­tors can con­tin­ue to pro­vide emer­gency ser­vices and pre­vent fur­ther avoid­able deaths. Remem­ber, wanaok­u­fa ni wato­to wa Mungu. Think green, act green!

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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