Do the honourable thing and honour Agreement with health practitioners

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As striking Kenyan doctors dig in, patients who depend on public hospitals are forgotten

That government has only halfheartedly reacted to the doctors and nurses’ strike paints a not so rosy picture of its sensitivity to the health of Kenyans. The ramifications have been severe, with patients loosing their lives to treatable conditions. It’s easy to blame these deaths on the doctors but a rational assessment of the dire state of affairs in the public health sector against the history of their plight actually points to their victimisation.

The bone of the bone of contention is the implementation of a collective bargaining agreement between the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union, and the Ministry of Health. The agreement guarantees the general betterment of doctors’ welfare, including contemplating a 300% salary increase. Yet, in what has now become a trend, government has simply rejected implementation of the CBA citing a lack of money. Instead, it referred doctors to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, never mind the binding nature of the agreement and the curious case of mass wastage of government resources! How then can doctors trust government? How can we?

Doctors have actually made a gallant effort in arresting the rot bedevilling the health sector. Among others, they agreed to the supervision of performance contracts and recommended the formation of a Public Health Committee to oversee the purchase of modern equipment, the welfare of health workers and the devolution of primary health care.

For proposals they had agreed to, government not only devolved curative health as well and stalled the formation of the health committee, it has also wasted Medicare cash to corruption and the pursuit of costly undertakings such as the mandatory leasing of medical equipment. The results are there for all to see. Health workers are grossly underpaid, public hospitals are poorly equipped and understaffed, and county governments have mismanaged money meant for hospitals even when the sector was already and still is underfunded.
Whatever excuse government cites cannot overwrite the fact that it devolved healthcare without an implementer act; it has dallied in whipping the formation of the all important Public Health Committees, even failing to offer the requisite leadership without it. Doctors have explored all other means of voicing their concerns to little effect. That public health workers resorted to industrial action – the only language government seems to understand – did not come as a surprise. Forget about the counties; government is actually the biggest culprit in this whole saga – it is the one that ensured that curative healthcare became a devolved function.

Health is the basis of all goodness. Only when it’s healthy can a nation prosper. Its time UhuRuto took a break from their campaign excursions and focused on service delivery. Its time they channelled some of the monies they are dishing out in the name of “projects” towards issues that really matter. Unlike with corruption, there is something the President can do here that does not require much effort

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Gatundu MP Moses Kuria was at it again last month when he announced, through social media, that he’d be tabling a Bill to allow Kenyans to arm themselves during election time. The Kenya Stand Your Ground Bill, 2016, provides for, among other things “using lethal force” by “employing any means necessary” to defend themselves and protect their property against people the legislator seems convinced will start war in August after “government is reelected”.

Kenya has been on the precipice once, and it is courtesy of utterances such as Kuria’s. It is unfortunate that the legislator does not see anything wrong with his proposal. His comments are nothing short of hate speech and incitement, and should be treated as such.

It would be extremely sad if Speaker Justin Muturi allowed the MP to table that vile Bill. It must be opposed and condemned by even those legislators, from both sides of the political divide, who pride themselves with being first class bigots and primitive loyalists. What Kuria proposes should not, must not, be entertained even as a joke.^

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