Catholic bishops in Kenya urge government to address doctors strike

Kenya bishops Members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB). | Credit: KCCB

Members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) are calling on the Kenyan government to “speedily” address the concerns of doctors in the East African country where health services remain paralyzed due to a protracted strike of medical doctors.

Through the strike, which is in its fourth week, doctors in Kenya are seeking better pay per the terms of collective bargaining agreements signed in 2017. The doctors signed the contentious agreements with the Ministry of Health on June 30, 2017, and then with county governments on July 6, 2017.

Addressing the press on Thursday, April 11, KCCB members made an appeal to the government, asking officials to “speedily address the legitimate concerns of the doctors.”

“Our health provision is in the hands of the medical fraternity,” the bishops said. “We ask both parties to seek dialogue and settle the matter once and for all.”

Expressing optimism that dialogue is capable of addressing the stalemate between the government and the doctors, the bishops also said: “The situation is deplorable and we continue witnessing the misery of the sick.”

“Many have died and many are deteriorating in their sickness because of the current standoff,” the bishops said while recognizing the doctors’ right to seek justice and equity.

The bishops also said they recognize the uniqueness of the medical fraternity, which they say should be vigilant when deciding on strikes, “as it touches on human life most closely.”

“While we believe there may be merit-worthy demands, we have always urged the doctors and medical practitioners to place the life and interests of the patients first,” they said. “We still do the same. The life of a human person should never be used as a bargaining currency.”

“Every life is worth more than any financial or employment gain. We urge the government on one hand, and doctors and clinical officers on the other, to seek a working arrangement that does not put the lives of the patients at risk, so that lives are not lost or threatened even during the industrial action,” the bishops said.

The Church leaders said they find it troubling that people’s suffering has been worsened by the inability of faith-based health facilities to fully respond to the crisis due to finances. They urged the government to pay the debts owed to faith-based organizations, which own several health facilities in the country, to enable them to provide the necessary care to the sick.

“We have on various occasions raised with the government the very unjust fact that faith-based hospitals are owed huge amounts by the National Hospital Insurance Fund,” the bishops said.

“As of now, this has accrued to over 2 billion Kenya shillings,” they added. “The effect is that most of our hospitals are crippled and not able to operate optimally and therefore offer services to the needy. In fact, many are now unable to procure medicines and pay salaries.”

This story was originally published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

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