Since it’s inception, devolution has been marred by strikes in the health sector. These have on several occasions disrupted provision of healthcare services in public health facilities. The near year 2021 seems not to come with any better news other than a maintained status quo. Doctors blame all these on high handedness and lack of goodwill on the side of the Council of Governors (CoG).
Even changes in the leadership of the Council of Governors have done almost nothing to remedy the situation. In deed the newly elected chairperson of the Heath Committee in the Council of Governors Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o seems to have picked up from where his predecessor left. In a letter dated 12th February 2021, the governor of Kisumu county has criticized the ongoing health crisis affecting different counties terming the strikes “illegal, unprotected by the law and a violation of the right to life and right to access health care as provided under Article 26 and 43 of the constitution”.
In the same letter, the governor has spelt out a raft of measures to be taken against health workers engaged in the strikes. These measures include stoppage of salaries, initiating disciplinary process, advertisement for positions of the health workers and stoppage of salaries for those engaged in post graduate training.
However, doctors have not taken the threats by Governor Nyong’o lying down. In a quick rejoinder, the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentist Union (KMPDU) Nyanza branch leader Dr Kevin Osuri has taken issues with the manner in which the Council of Governors is handling health workers.
“The CoG, particularly its health committee, should be an enabler of sound human resources for health. The recent salvo by the CoG health committee is in utter bad faith and smacks of recklessness by the very institution tasked to protect the healthcare space”, he said in an interview with media houses.
Dr Osuri, who is an aspiring KMPDU Secretary General, has called on the Council of Governors to withdraw the statement to allow for harmony as it portrays lack of goodwill from the governors in addressing the plight of health workers.
But where exactly is the issue?
According to Prof Anyang’Nyong’o, Health is a devolved function, a fact he believes health workers do not understand.
“Health remains a legal function of the county governments, hence in retrospect, the negotiation framework for the health workers should be within the confines of individual county government and not a national pressure group”, reads part of Governor Nyong’o’s statement.
However, Dr Osuri Kevin opines that some of the issues affecting the healthcare professionals tranceedes county government and involve the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), health policies formulated at the Ministry of Health and legislations done by parliament. He believes counties have not been willing to engage health workers together with the other relevant institutions to find a lasting solution to the perennial problems bedeviling the health sector.