Private Kenyan hospital doctors to strike after colleagues jailed

A riot policeman stands guard as doctors chant slogans after their case to demand fulfilment of a 2013 agreement between their union and the government that would raise their pay and improve working conditions, was heard at the employment and labour relations courts in Nairobi, Kenya, February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
By Humphrey Malalo | NAIROBI

NAIROBI Doctors in Kenya’s private healthcare system will strike from midnight in protest at a government clampdown on a stoppage at public hospitals, a senior official said on Tuesday, deepening a political crisis for President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The private sector strike will run for an initial 48 hours, Kenya Medical Association head Jacqueline Kitulu said on Tuesday, in response a court’s decision to jail officials from public healthcare unions.

“Further instructions will be issued should the doctors (representing the unions) still be in jail at the expiry of this (48 hour) period,” she said, calling on their colleagues to demonstrate at courts around the country in solidarity.

Officials from the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union were jailed on Monday for contempt of court after they refused to call off the public hospital strike, which has entered its third month. The court had ruled the strike was illegal.

Kitulu said that there would be no negotiations while union officials were in jail, and demanded that Kenyatta – who faces presidential and parliamentary elections in August – sack cabinet members and senior technocrats, who she blamed for the crisis.

The doctors’ union, which has about 5,000 members, wants the government to implement a deal agreed in 2013 to raise doctors’ basic salaries by 150 to 180 percent, review working conditions, job structures and criteria for promotions and address under-staffing in state hospitals.

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Dominic Evans and John Stonestreet)