KENYA—Doctors across the country have terminated their 56-day nationwide strike, which has paralyzed service provision at all public health facilities, following the signing of a return-to-work agreement with the Ministry of Health and counties.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union (KMPDU), which represents over 7,000 members, went on strike on March 15 to demand payment of salary arrears and the immediate hiring of trainee doctors, among other issues.

Doctors sought full execution of their 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

They had cited 19 issues they wanted rectified, the most important of which was the posting of medical interns on a Sh206,000 (US$1,572.52) monthly wage, for which the government offered a Sh70,000 (US$534.35) monthly stipend, which they declined.

Of the 19 issues doctors raised, six relate to counties, nine to the national government, and four to both levels of government.

The government has also submitted a new Sh 6.1 billion (US$46.56 million) offer to meet physicians’ requests, while the striking medics insisted on a ‘no deal’ unless the controversial subject of intern posting was resolved.

The agreement, reached after prolonged discussions with the National Advisory Council, which endorsed KMPDU to sign this return-to-work formula so that it can pave the way for doctors to return to work within 24 hours, signals relief for the nation’s healthcare sector.

The signing of the agreement comes at the end of the 48-hour deadline the Employment and Labour Relations Court had set for the government and striking doctors to finalize a return-to-work formula, without which the court would have stepped in to hear and rule the matter on their behalf.

Speaking on Wednesday night, after signing the return-to-work agreement, KMPDU head Abidan Mwachi expressed dissatisfaction that both parties had failed to reach an agreement on intern posting and payment, citing the loss of life caused by both the 2017 and 2024 strikes.

On his part, KMPDU Secretary General Davji Atellah declared that the doctor’s strike had been called off.

He went on to clarify that they did not agree on the subject of posting interns since the union wanted the doctors’ intern posted immediately per the agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement (CBA), while the government wanted them to wait for the court litigation before the agreement.

As a result, medical intern postings will be suspended for 60 days until a solid agreement is achieved.

Atellah attributed the absence of an agreement to an ongoing court matter in Eldoret, which is awaiting a decision.

“As this matter in court is ongoing, we will also be having conversations but one thing we must assure everybody is that the rights of workers as enshrined in a collective bargaining agreement that is signed, we will always endeavor to protect that,” he stated.

In her remarks from her office, Hon. Nakhumicha thanked all parties involved in the negotiations, recognizing the tireless efforts of Ministry of Health staff, principal secretaries, technical officers, and the Whole-of-Nation approach committee, which was led by Head of Public Service Hon. Felix Koskei.

The Cabinet Secretary also praised the Industrial and Labour Relations Court for its important role in enabling the resolution.

While acknowledging the sacrifices faced by patients and families throughout the strike, the CS praised the dedication of healthcare staff who stayed devoted to their duties despite the difficult conditions.

Notably, she praised doctors, nurses, and community health promoters for their continuous dedication, particularly during the nation’s present flooding disaster.

Addressing the underlying structural difficulties that led to the strike, Nakhumicha underlined the significance of implementing long-term solutions to long-standing healthcare challenges.

As part of the resolution, preparations are being developed to evaluate staffing norms and standards, improve HRH coordination through the Kenyan Health Human Resource Advisory Council, and establish an interagency task force to address outstanding concerns.

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