Homa Bay doctors threaten to strike over withheld November pay

Friday December 29 2017

Doctors' strike.

Doctors protest at Afya House, Nairobi, on December 5, 2016. Homa Bay doctors have accused the county of denying them their November 2017 salary for participating in the 100-day strike. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Doctors in Homa Bay have protested against the county for not paying them their November salaries.

Union officials told the Nation on Friday that they did not receive their November salaries, but were given payslips showing they had been paid.


They criticised the county government for victimising them for participating in the 100-day nationwide doctors’ strike that began on December 5, 2016 and ended on March 14 this year.

They said the Council of Governors had assured the union that no doctor would be victimised for participating in the strike.

"They received slips showing that the funds had been remitted into the accounts when in the actual sense no money was paid to them for that month. The sad part is that there is no explanation given by those concerned," said Dr Ben Ouma, the Homa Bay chairman for the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU).


Dr Ouma said they were reading mischief in the matter.

"We suspect mischief, someone is sitting on our money and we are not going to keep silent in the face of this injustice," said Dr Ouma.

He said they would be heading to court by Tuesday to press for the release of their salaries, failing which they would call for a strike.

"We have already contacted lawyers and by Tuesday we want the anomaly explained, and [to know] why the county has not made any corrections," said Dr Ouma.


But Homa Bay County Chief Officer for Health Duncan Ojiem said the doctors in Homa Bay had participated in an illegal strike.

He said they began the strike a month before the nationwide strike began, a claim the doctors denied.

“They did an illegal strike and thus cannot justify demanding pay for work they did not do,” Mr Ojiem told the Nation on the phone.

He termed as farfetched the allegation that someone was “sitting on” doctors’ money.

“There is nobody sitting on their money. They are only agitating for what they did work for. Money becomes yours when you have worked for it,” said Mr Ojiem.


Dr Ouma further accused the county government of dictatorship and unfair victimisation of health staff seeking study leave. He said they are denied pay while others are not given permits to go on study leave.

"One cannot reconcile a county that wants to move forward and the action by some health executives to stoop so low as to deny doctors the opportunity to advance their studies. A learning workforce should be viewed as an asset, not as a liability," he said.

The union official further called for the hiring of more health workers.

He said the 45 doctors currently employed in the region were not enough to meet the needs of the growing population.

"They are stretched and thus quality in the provision of decent and proper healthcare cannot be guaranteed. Other counties have been employing [workers] and we want this to happen here as well," said Dr Ouma.

On the issue of staffing, Health chief executive, Mr Ojiem, said that the county has set aside more funds for the hiring of more nurses and doctors.


Nyanza region KMPDU chairman Dr Lameck Omweri said the county risks losing out on an improved healthcare system if it mistreats doctors.

"As a union we are aware there had been even no statutory deductions and remittances being done to the Kenya Revenue Authority. This is worrying and unacceptable. We want this anomaly rectified," Dr Omweri said.

He said a work boycott was still an option if the issues are not addressed.

"Dispute resolution mechanisms do allow for dialogue but when this fails we have the recourse of the court or industrial action. We are not cowards," he said.

Dr Omweri said it was shameful that the county does not recognise the sacrifices doctors make to improve service delivery.