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Chief of staff calls for truce in health workers strike

Chief of Staff and Head of the Public Service, Felix Koskei, addressing Journalists during the closing of the inaugural two-day Regulatory Authorities and Agencies Conference at the Kenya School of Government in Mombasa.

Head of Public Service Felix Koskei has issued a formal appeal to the Health Workers’ Unions, urging them to cease their industrial action and engage in constructive dialogue with their respective employers.

Speaking at the Kenya School of Government, Mombasa, as he officially closed the inaugural two-day Regulatory Authorities and Agencies Conference, Koskei said that there was a Court Order, that was issued to suspend the strike, to allow negotiations and discussions regarding the issues presented by the health workers.

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“We have invited them and we are waiting for the Union to suspend the strike and come to the table, so we can sit down and negotiate terms that will leave both parties comfortable,” Koskei said.

Koskei cautioned that the issue of CBA is most contentious, noting that there are about 50 employers of Doctors and 47 counties, Four National Government entities and Three level Six and the Ministry itself.

“It is only fair that the health workers go back to the respective employers, because they are ready to negotiate,” he pleaded.

Koskei confirmed that they have sorted out the major contentious issues like basic salary arrears, both National and County government, and the fees arrears for the postgraduate doctors highlighting that the treasury is processing the payment of about 150 million.

He went on to say that they have also sorted out the issue of comprehensive insurance coverage that they asked for and that from 1st July they will be on the cover.

“They are already on comprehensive cover, which I think they had an apprehension that perhaps with the changes in NHIF, they may lose the cover, but I want to assure them that they are not going to lose it because they are also public servants,” Koskei said.

Koskei added that the Ministry of Health is also actively addressing human resource matters such as promotions and guidelines. Efforts are underway to ensure that qualified individuals are promoted promptly, with the necessary funds allocated for that purpose, while ensuring that positions slated for promotion are vacant and that the promotion process aligns with the established criteria.

“We are saying let respective counties negotiate with the unions because counties like Mombasa have confirmed that they have no arrears and have all issues sorted,” he said.

Koskei emphasized that interns are newly graduated doctors who are required by law to undergo a one-year internship as part of their curriculum that helps them to acquire practical experience and fulfill the requirements for obtaining a medical license thereafter.

This structured training period ensures that interns are adequately prepared to contribute effectively to healthcare delivery upon completion of their internship.

“The contention is the stipend that they are supposed to be paid because it is not a salary, in 2017 the government signed to pay Ksh 206,000 per month and it has become very unsustainable to the extent that there is a backlog because they are running under a very limited budget,” he said.

He highlighted that the entire workforce may not be able to get an increment because the country’s economy is very dire to all sectors.

“NRC analysis that we did says that we can pay them Ksh 70,000 per month for 12 months and upon graduation they can go get jobs that can pay them even a million in the country or even abroad,” Koskei said.

He acknowledged the challenge posed by the duration of twelve months and the associated salary, however, he encouraged the interns to prioritize acquiring their licenses, emphasizing its significance in liberating them from the constraints of being mere understudies.

Chief of Staff reiterated the President’s words, urging Kenyans that it is important to live within the means, because the government cannot afford to borrow loans to pay salaries.

“The budget we have set aside of Ksh 204 billion, can afford to accommodate all the 1,200 interns with the Ksh 70,000 salary, but if they want Ksh 206,000, we will be forced to take some few of about 100, which will lead to a backlog of approximately five years,” he concluded.

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