About a week ago, talks, which had been highly hoped to contribute to restoring the Kenyan medical profession, suddenly collapsed and eventually ended when positions hardened, with an ending that included suggestions for the hiring of foreign doctors instead.
The result above is an illustration of what some have said about Kenya lately; that doctors there go through endless talks, mediation, jail, intimidation, and exorcism, all in a bid to get fair remuneration. The same doctors have repeatedly highlighted to the public that they offer services that they cannot afford.
In my first article about the doctor’s strike, Doctors call the shots: work with them! I noted that it is equally vital that governments, as they have the most and best resources available to them, construct as much as possible medical related infrastructures across the country. The health centres and/or facilities can and should be as mobile as possible and well stocked with the basic and necessary medical supplies for the benefit of the visiting or visited patients in any and all communities wherever they are. The presence of the medical officers there would go a long way to improving the doctor to patient interaction.
In a succeeding article, Doctors Call The Shots: Part 2; We Are All On Strike I wrote that Doctors, whom I find to be the government’s most important employees – for the success or development of a nation is wholly founded on the health of its citizens, have taken to the streets, to, apparently, win over the sympathy and support of the public, and, most importantly, to demonstrate their disappointment, which results from their own misfortunes. While on the streets, they have not been able to perform their cardinal duty, as professionals, which is to serve.
To be able to serve, professionals have got to be catered to. This apparently not-about-to-end strike, however, is an illustration that they are not. An agreement, signed in 2013, by the Government of Kenya and the Kenya Medical Practitioner’s Union, to provide for a pay rise (from the average of KSH 40,000 before taxable deductions), to review working conditions, job structures, criteria for promotions, and to address understaffing in state hospitals, has not been implemented.
Save for the talks, which were initiated and have now collapsed, nothing much has changed since both articles. The termination of the talks is first and foremost an illustration of the systematic neglect that doctors have suffered, but even more importantly, a gross violation of the law.
The Constitution of the Republic of Kenya 2010 states, in Article 43 (1) (a) that every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health. This provision, the government has successfully violated by failing to cater to doctors, as reflected in the second article (above).
In a recent interaction with a striking Kenyan, Nairobi based doctor, I learnt that the health centres are currently surviving on the labours of junior medical officers or nurses or medical practitioners brought in from the armed forces, all who cannot render the most technical services or knowledge to the patients. By maintaining the status quo, the Government of Kenya is not only hurting the doctors, both psychologically and financially, but, even worse, effectively denying “every person the highest attainable standard of health” as prescribed by the constitution.
The major responsibility of any government is to, amongst others, develop the most basic infrastructure, that upon which opportunities can be created. The most important of all infrastructure is whatever it is that pertains to health because a healthy nation is a wealthy nation as it has, first, a healthy, functioning workforce.
Doctors, therefore, should not spend their time treating talks, or rather negotiations over their strike with commissions et al, but should spend their time making Kenyans healthier.