Health News

Kenyan doctors end strike over inadequate PPE, delayed pay

FILE PHOTO: A relative attends to a patient on a stretcher at the emergency section of the Kenyatta National Hospital during a doctors' strike, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Nairobi, Kenya December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan doctors working in public hospitals ended a nationwide strike on Thursday with ministers saying concerns about inadequate protective equipment during the pandemic, delayed pay and a lack of insurance had been addressed.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, with 7,000 members, went on strike on Monday, saying the government had not responded to grievances it had been raising since the country reported its first coronavirus case in March.

“All the issues that were raised and itemised have either been addressed or we have given assurance of action,” Simon Chelugui, Minister for Labour and Social Protection, told a news conference, which was also attended by senior union officials.

In a country where most people rely on public hospitals, the strike had raised fears that the fight against the coronavirus and treatment of other diseases would be greatly affected.

“Going forward, we are looking, not just at dealing with the matters that we have got here on the table, but generally improving healthcare in the country,” Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe told the same news conference.

At least 14 doctors have died of COVID-19 since March, several of them leading specialist physicians, according to the doctors’ union.

Over the last month, the virus has been spreading to rural areas where the public health system is creaking and limited intensive care units are at full capacity, medics have told Reuters.

Kagwe and Chelugui made no mention of the nurses and clinical officers who have also been on strike for two weeks over similar grievances. The two groups have their own separate unions.

As of Thursday, Kenya had 95,431 confirmed coronavirus cases, 1,652 deaths and 76,720 recoveries, data from the health ministry showed.

Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Kirsten Donovan