I was recently in Kenya and had an interesting conversation with a doctor from one of the public hospitals.
I was wondering if doctors don’t really care about the plight of poor Kenyans who visit the government hospitals.
What I gathered was such an eye opener on what the doctors go through in their day-to-day lives, especially in the public health facilities.
I was made to understand that most hospitals lacked basic equipment, yet doctors were supposed to save lives, making their work really hard.
At times, the doctors were forced to use urine bags to put someone on a drip. And at times, they failed to save lives because basic things like needles were missing. Not to mention that most of the public health facilities lacked even oxygen masks.
I also learnt more about their collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
As a curious journalist, I managed to persuade her to allow me go through the CBA.
According to Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, implementing the CBA would cost $126 million per year, an amount the government says it cannot afford.
The government now maintains that the 2013 CBA was agreed without enough consultation.
The striking union, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPPDU) has so far rejected a 40 per cent offer by the government, holding onto the CBA which calls for access to quality healthcare services in public hospitals.
So, if you are wondering why the strike has been going on for about five weeks, you now know the reason though I am going to enlighten you more.
After getting frustrated with faulty machines or lack of proper equipment and even drugs, making them lose a lot of patients, the doctors finally said enough is enough and downed their tools.
They were simply asking for better working conditions and improvement of the public health facilities and that the waiting time to see a doctor be made shorter. They were also rooting for more training and employment of support staff so that cases of negligence can be reduced and that public hospitals provide quality and standardised healthcare like top private hospitals. And don’t they deserve a better pay?
According to the World Health Organisation, Kenya has one doctor for every 5,000 people compared to 2.5 per 1,000 in the US and probably higher in Europe, Middle East and Far East.
It is widely known that Kenya is also home to some of the greediest legislators on earth, earning approximately $20,000 per month. And what is more annoying is that the concerned authorities were still taking the doctors for granted, thus destroying the morale and even frustrating members of the public who depend on these health facilities.
What has seemingly annoyed members of the public is the government’s failure to resolve the strike. And it was coming at a time when corruption was stinking to high heavens, given the much publicised scandals that have tainted the image of the current administration.
And what seemed to have touched the raw nerve of the already frustrated public and helpless citizens is the internal audit exposure of how some senior health officials stole around $55 million from the 2015-16 health budget.
And currently, the government was pulling another fast ones on doctors. They were now threatening to arrest and jail them!
Trust me, we are going to see mass resignations leading to brain drain as Kenyan doctors troop abroad in quest for better working conditions.
It could be worse than 2013 up to 2016 during which, according to KMPPDU, about 2,200 doctors left the country out of frustration to seek better working conditions overseas.
While they were doing a remarkable work, not all the doctors were angels though.
My family has also had a bad doctor experience since my father died as a result of negligence in one of the public health facilities, but that is a story for another day.
As other ordinary Kenyans, we could not afford treatment in a private facility or elsewhere.
I know the Kenyan politicians can afford better healthcare overseas even for simple medical procedures that could be done in local dispensaries.
But for the rest, we need these doctors and cannot do without them.
It is everyone’s hope that the government and the opposition would rally with members of the public and resolve this impasse.