Doctors have expressed optimism that a solution to their two-month strike will be found within the seven days the court allowed them to resolve the stalemate.
The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu), and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) are spearheading the talks, after the Employment and Labour Relations Court granted their wish to intervene.
Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials on Monday said they are waiting for direction from Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli and the KNCHR officials in line with the court’s Friday ruling.
“We will cooperate fully and engage proactively. We hope the other side (government) will also do the same,” KMPDU secretary-general Oluga told the Nation.
He said it is unfortunate that the government has remained insensitive to many patients who cannot afford medical services at private hospitals by reneging on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was endorsed by its officers.
“It is a shameful thing that a country can allow all doctors to be on strike. The government has abdicated its own responsibility of health provision to the doctors,” Dr Oluga said.
“It shows the level of neglect that the government has on its citizenry.”
Medical schools have also closed because, besides relying on the doctors to teach, students use public hospitals for their practical sessions, which are mandatory in medical courses.
“There is no production of new doctors. Universities that offer the course have closed because it is the same doctors who teach the students,” Dr Oluga said.
There are also fears that patients, especially those with complications that require specialized treatment but can’t afford private hospitals, may die at the hands unqualified medical practitioners or traditional birth attendants.
The unionists said the CBA covers a wide range of issues meant to improve healthcare in the country.
There is a growing need for more high-quality doctors to help reduce deaths associated with delayed or wrong diagnosis of ailments.
“We want a harmonised curriculum that will produce uniform quality training irrespective of the medical school one goes to,” Dr Oluga said, adding that their CBA is not all about salaries as the public has been made to believe.
Justice Hellen Wasilwa directed that the negotiating team include other government agencies.
They include the Council of Governors, Auditor-General, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labour, Salaries and Remuneration Commission, Federation of Kenya Employers and Public Service Commission.