This is how to end doctors’ strikes for good

Kenya needs to form a Health Service Commission to do a proper costing of health services at the counties and establish capacity and infrastructure of health services in order to contain perennial strikes by health care workers.

A former director of medical services says the commission will be able to address the three keys issues that have seen doctors and nurses take to the streets to demand fair treatment since 1971.

Seme MP James Nyikal who was the country’s director of medical services between 2003 and 2008 said devolution of health services was rushed even before capacity assessment was done.

In an interview with X News, Dr Nyikal said there is no proper infrastructure and management of health services at the county level.

As such, he said the formation of a health service commission to centralize the management and structure of health services is key in addressing the current problems facing the crucial sector.

The legislator said just like other sectors who have their own commission, issues are addressed with ease and the government honours most of the agreements.

In his reign at the ministry of Medical services, Nyikal said they placed the health service commission in the 2005 constitution which was defeated in a referendum and the health workers failed to anchor it in the 2010 constitution. 

He however said the commission can still be formed through an act of parliament.

“A Health Service Commission will help in setting up standards on recruitment, remuneration, terms and conditions of work for health workers across the country. When this is done the country will not witness any strike again,” Dr Nyikal said.

At the moment, Nyikal said what plagues the health sector most is lack of harmonization of terms of services as different counties pay different rates to health workers hence causing the disquiet among the workers.

“At the moment one county pays a nurse Sh16,000 and another Sh36,000; this variance will definitely cause unease among the health workers. We need a uniform structure where whether one serves in Meru, Kiambu or Nyeri the terms of service is the same,” he argued.

On the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that has led to the current strike which entered its fifth day today, the lawmaker said the issue is complicated since health is a devolved function yet the union officials signed the agreement with the national government. 

He said at the moment its only health workers at Kenyatta National Hospital, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Mathari Mental Hospital that are under the national government.

“With sincere and pragmatic approach on the basis of constitutional provisions and legal framework in place as well as due regard for human life, these issues can be resolved quickly. It appears politics, grandstanding and struggle for control of resources are the main obstacles,” he observed.

He cautioned the government not to threaten health workers with either a court order or  sacking saying they are educated people who have many options open to them.

“Health workers should not be treated like other people because they deal with instant human life,” he said.

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