Coronavirus: Kenyan doctors return to work after four-day strike

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Nairobi, Dec. 25, 2020 A Kenyan dentist succumbed to the coronavirus disease on Friday, a day after a union of doctors in Kenya signed an agreement with the government to end a strike launched on 21 December to demand better protection of frontline medical personnel.

The dentist, Andrew Njuguna, a member of the Kenya Dental Association, died of the complications caused by the virus on Friday.

The Kenyan Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPPDU) issued a strike notice on 16 November which it suspended for a few weeks before reinstating it on 21 December.

On 24 December, the government, represented by heads of government hospital facilities, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services and representatives of 47 County Public Service Boards, signed a return to work agreement with the KMPPDU, to return doctors to the hospitals.

The strike was to press for the release of funds to purchase protective equipment for the medical workers. Kenyan doctors launched a strike after months of complaining about the dangers posed by the absence of basic personal protective equipment with which to handle cases of the coronavirus in hospitals.

The campaign by the doctors was mounted after the death of senior medical personnel who caught the virus on the frontline battling the pandemic in both private and public health facilities.

At least 14 doctors have succumbed to the pandemic forcing doctors to call a general strike to demand for insurance policy cover for practicing medical personnel.

In the return to work agreement signed by four top government officials including Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Chairman of the Council of Governors, Governor James Ongwae, representing the Labour Committee of the Council of Governors, Simon Chelugui, the Cabinet Secretary for Labour, KMPPDU Chairman Oroko Obegi and Chibanzi Mwachonda, acting Secretary-General, the government agreed to fast-track the release of funds required to purchase the PPEs for the medical workers.

Government agencies will also push for the release of funds to secure the purchase of group life insurance cover for the medical workers, enhanced work injury benefits (WIBA) and Group Personal Accident Cover.

The 13-point return to work agreement covers the commitment by the government of Kenya to pay the funds owed to the doctors. The government also undertook to end disputes with medical workers based in Kirinyaga County and Laikipia County, near Mount Kenya, who have been on strike for the longest period by mandating the Attorney General and the Public Service Commission.

The government undertook to renew the contract of 116 doctors recruited to manage isolation facilities for coronavirus pandemic cases.

Meanwhile, nurses and other medical personnel remain on strike which was called earlier to press for improved working conditions in hospitals.

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