Kakamega County Hires 14 Medical Practitioners Amidst Escalating Doctor’s Strike

By Seliphar Machoni

At Kakamega General Hospital, amidst a doctor’s strike, a woman sits in the waiting area with a worried expression on her face. Beside her, a restless 12-year-old clutching his injured leg adds to the tension.

The hospital, once bustling with activity, now feels eerily quiet. The corridors are empty, and the usual hustle and bustle has been replaced by an uneasy silence. With each passing minute, the mother’s concern deepens as she realizes that the urgent care her child needs is out of reach.

She keeps hoping for a miracle, praying for a doctor or nurse to come to their aid. But her hopes are crushed when she and her injured boy are turned away. The 12-year-old boy with a broken leg was turned away from a hospital due to a lack of available doctors.

Another patient affected by the ongoing strike shared his struggle to raise funds for an urgent spinal surgery.

Local media reports tell the tragic story of a young man who died from what initially seemed to be a toothache. His condition worsened, resulting in a blood infection and malaria. He was shuffled between several hospitals in search of medical attention, but to no avail.

Desperate for treatment, many patients have been forced to seek help at private clinics, despite the higher costs compared to public hospitals.

The citizens of Kakamega county, both relying on the county and national government, have pleaded for a swift resolution to the doctor’s strike. They hope that once normalcy is restored, the suffering of the common mwananchi (ordinary citizen) will come to an end.

However, instead of addressing their concerns, the Kakamega county governor issued a warning to the striking doctors, threatening them with termination if they did not return to work.

Recent developments show that the county government of Kakamega has hired 14 medical staff on contract to fill the vacancies left by the striking doctors.

County Health Executive Bernard Wesonga stated that these doctors could be offered permanent positions once the strike is resolved.

For the Kakamega Teaching County Referral Hospital to operate effectively, it requires 50 medical doctors. Currently, there are only 24 doctors, with 10 on permanent contracts and 14 serving on temporary contracts.

The 14 doctors were hired approximately one month ago when the strike began.

Dr. Wesonga clarified that all 10 doctors on permanent contracts are participating in the strike. However, in order to maintain the continuity of services at the facility, the decision was made to hire additional doctors under the Locum arrangement.

The referral hospital sees an average of 1,000 patients daily.

“We are attending to many patients. Being a referral hospital, many patients are transferred here because it is where we have specialists and consultants. In order to provide continuous healthcare services, even if at an optimal level, we had to find a solution and hire the 14 doctors,” explained Wesonga.

The Health CEC expressed regret over the impact of the doctors’ strike on the provision of healthcare services in public hospitals. To address this, 14 doctors will oversee the affected areas such as theatre, surgical, and special clinic services.

During a spot check at the facility, it was discovered that a regional cancer center within the County Referral Hospital only has one oncologist doctor, who is currently being assisted by an oncologist nurse.

Kakamega Deputy Governor Ayub Savula had previously announced that the county administration would hire doctors on contract to replace the striking medics starting this week.

Savula emphasized that the striking doctors will be dismissed according to the directive issued by Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa two weeks ago, which required the medics to either resume work or face termination.

He said, “We know that Kenya is facing a crisis due to the doctor’s strike, but in Kakamega, our governor has stated that those on strike will be sacked as labor laws dictate that payment should only be made for work done. We will not pay those who refuse to work.”

He further added, “Starting from this week (Monday), we will be hiring new doctors on a Locum basis to ensure that our public hospitals continue to function and provide healthcare services to the people who pay taxes and have the right to receive medical care.”

Last week, Governor Barasa issued an order to striking doctors in the county, requiring them to report to work on April 12 at 8 am without fail. He warned that disciplinary action would be taken against doctors who failed to comply.

He stated, “All striking doctors must report to their respective working stations tomorrow (Friday) by 8 am and resume their duties without fail. Any doctor who is not present at their working station will be dismissed. We have many qualified doctors who can diligently perform the job when replacements are made.”

Governor Barasa, during the media address at the county offices, added, “The doctors are not indispensable. I am hereby ordering them to resume their work as negotiations regarding their grievances are being addressed. The Employment and Labor Relations Court Judge Byram Ongaya declared the ongoing strike illegal, and the doctors must abide by this ruling. This is the stance we, as the Council of Governors, have taken.”

On April 3, Justice Ongaya suspended the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) strike and ordered that negotiations be completed within 14 days, with the parties returning to court by April 17.

He ruled, “The strike notice remains suspended, and the Whole of Nation Approach Committee must complete its work within the next 14 days. The parties are required to report back to court.”

Barasa stated that the ongoing strike has resulted in disruptions to theater, surgical, and special clinic services, leading to a significant decrease in the number of patients.

“I want to inform the general public that health services at the dispensaries are still operating, and I encourage those who are sick to seek medical treatment,” he said.

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