Nakhumicha Medical Interns Are Nobody’s Employees in Kenya : “They Remain Students”

The issue surrounding medical interns has sparked a contentious debate, putting both Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission in a precarious position, particularly among medical professionals.

This discussion has shed light on the crucial role of interns, whom medical practitioners describe as individuals who bear the brunt of emergency healthcare and routine care within hospitals.

Contrary to Ms. Nakhumicha’s assertions, these young graduates are indeed considered government employees, as outlined in the Medical Council’s Act. They work under supervision but undertake the responsibilities of a doctor.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists Dentists Union (KMPDU) Secretary General Davji Atellah criticizes both the CS and the commission for undermining the significance of medical interns. He points out their lack of understanding, particularly regarding the internship process and the associated legal framework.

Interns, typically attached to hospitals during their third year of medical school, graduate as doctors and proceed to undertake an internship program as employees. They assume healthcare responsibilities independently, seeking guidance only when necessary, under the close supervision of consultant doctors.

Despite their essential role, many counties rely heavily on interns for care, often requiring them to be on call for 24 hours. Currently, doctors nationwide are on strike, demanding the posting of 1,300 intern doctors, emphasizing that internship is a global requirement.

In a controversial move, the CS stated that interns do not merit a salary, arguing that they are still in training. This stance contradicts the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which stipulated a monthly salary for intern doctors.

The decision by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to significantly reduce intern doctors’ pay has further fueled discontent among healthcare workers. Additionally, remarks by the Health CS suggesting that some interns are willing to work without stipends have been met with skepticism.

Prof. Lukoye Atwoli highlights the substantial responsibilities shouldered by medical interns, emphasizing the inadequacy of converting their salaries into stipends.

Individual stories from affected interns, such as Anjela Nambiro and Dr. Abdi Adow, underscore the personal and financial hardships caused by the delayed postings and reduced remuneration. These individuals express frustration and disillusionment with the government’s handling of their profession.

In summary, the controversy surrounding medical interns reveals deeper issues within the healthcare system, including disputes over remuneration, working conditions, and the recognition of interns’ essential contributions to patient care.