Doctors on Thursday painted a grim picture of the Covid-19 situation as they vowed to go on strike on December 7 if their plight is not addressed.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) told the Senate Health Committee that no doctor will report to work.
They want protective gear, better hazard allowances, coverage for Covid-19 treatment, special isolation facilities, among other measures. Soldiers get better care, they said.
They said medical facilities have been stretched to the limit by the soaring Covid-19 cases.
“Helicopter evacuations will not save you because all ICU facilities are full,” KMPDU national vice-chair Allan Ochanji said. He was responding to a demand by MPs to have a special helicopter available to them on a special hotline in case of an emergency.
The legislators had convened a sitting to mourn Matungu MP Justus Murunga who died of Covid-19 complications while on his way to St Mary’s Hospital in Mumias on Saturday.
Ochanji explained that Murunga would probably have nowhere to be taken even if a helicopter was available to ferry him to Nairobi. “Even if they are evacuated by helicopter, where will they be taken because there are times all ICUs are full?” he asked.
KPMDU secretary-general Chibanzi Mwachonda had just painfully narrated to senators how they lost an experienced doctor in Eldoret because the ICU at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital was full.
He said the doctor was even rushed to Nairobi but all ICU facilities in the capital were full.
“We have been left on our own. We are exposed and there is no form of protection or even compensation from the government. I want to assure you that no doctor will report to work on December 7 if our concerns are not addressed,” he said.
He said only 17 out of the 47 counties have their doctors covered by the National Hospital Insurance Fund. “A total of 20 counties have not prescribed at all while seven are not active,” he explained.
It is unfortunate we are talking about BBI and other things when our doctors are dying. The government has no alternative but to address these concerns.
Wajir Senator Abdullahi Ali
He added, “We have been left on own. Doctors are getting sick yet there is no formal structure of taking care of expenses or compensating. We are forced to fundraise to meet some of our needs.”
Mwachonda said they are demanding 2, 000 doctors be employed immediately on a permanent and pensionable basis.
“Covid-19 will be with us for a long time. We are not being greedy or asking for too much,” he told senators.
Wajir Senator Abdullahi Ali, a physician by profession, said it was unfortunate the medics’ concerns have been ignored.
“It is unfortunate we are talking about the BBI and other things when our doctors are dying. The government has no alternative but to address these concerns,” he added.
Doctors issued a three-week strike notice, accusing the government of neglecting them by failing to provide adequate gear in the fight against Covid-19.
He faulted the government for failing to address their problems, leading to the deaths of at least 30 medical workers. They include 10 senior specialists’ doctors.