Kenya Employment and Labour Relations Court orders all striking doctors back to work

On Wednesday, April 17, the Employment and Labour Relations Court issued a directive to the striking doctors represented by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union (KMPDU), ordering them to resume work immediately to handle emergencies while negotiations continue.

Judge Byrum Ongaya, in his ruling, mandated KMPDU to ensure that doctors across various specialties return to public hospitals to address emergency cases. He stipulated that each category of medical professionals, including medical officers, dental officers, pharmacists, and consultants, should have a minimum of two representatives available at public hospitals classified as level 3, 4, and 5 to manage emergencies.

This court intervention provides a temporary solution to the ongoing strike initiated by the doctors on March 13, 2024. Furthermore, Judge Ongaya underscored the importance of the government and KMPDU crafting a return-to-work plan within a 30-day timeframe.

Moreover, the Judge emphasized the continuation of interim orders aimed at facilitating a peaceful resolution to the strike notice and reconciliation proceedings concerning the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and minimum safety service protocols. These directives will remain in force until the conclusion of negotiations within the stipulated 30 days.

Judge Ongaya also highlighted the imperative of ensuring that there is no intimidation or harassment directed towards KMPDU officials or members in relation to the ongoing strike, emphasizing the necessity of uninterrupted health services provision.

The court’s decision comes amidst mounting concerns from various quarters regarding the prolonged doctors’ strike, which has significantly impacted patient care.

Meanwhile, Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumincha informed Members of Parliament on April 17 about the Ministry of Health’s assessment, indicating a substantial disruption in service delivery at referral hospitals due to the ongoing strike.

MPs pressed Nakhumincha to elucidate on the government’s efforts in resolving the issues surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the striking doctors. In response, the Health CS asserted that the government has endeavored to address the doctors’ demands pertaining to the 2017 CBA.