A strike by doctors in Kenya demanding higher pay that started Monday has left patients to fend for themselves.
Public hospitals have been abandoned for four days. Patients have been left stranded and those seeking treatment were turned away. At least 14 patients have reportedly died in public hospitals since the strike began, according to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday.
More than 100 patients escaped from the country's sole psychiatric hospital in Nairobi as the strike began, according to police commander Japheth Koome. At a hospital in western Kenya a security guard was forced to assist a woman give birth and an orphaned child was left alone in another hospital with no one to assist her transfer to another hospital, according to the The Standard Daily.
Underpaid, demanding action
Kenyan doctors have long complained about low pay, and thousands have moved abroad for higher paying positions. Kenyans commonly criticize politicians for seeking medical treatment outside the country, demonstrating they have no faith in medical care in their home nation.
Doctors unions are demanding a 300 percent pay increase and a 25 to 40 percent pay increase for nurses that they say was agreed to in a collective bargaining agreement from 2013 that has yet to be implemented. A statement from the Kenyan government on Tuesday said it "deeply regrets" the strike and "deeply values" medical workers.
The Kenyan government offered a 50,000 schilling ($500, 442 euros) pay increase to the lowest paid doctors, which would have raised their salaries to 176,000 schillings. But unions rejected the offer and walked out of talks once again. "We want to make it very clear that this strike shall only be called off by the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement," said Dr. Ouma Oluga, secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union.
Oluga said "all hospitals will be closed, be it private or public" if the pay dispute is not settled. Judge Helen Wasiliwa ordered union officials to appear in court next Tuesday, and threatened them with jail time should they disobey a court order and allow the strike to continue.
"Let us be human and be mindful of the lives of the patients. I am confident that we will find a solution to the problem," said Kenyatta.
kbd/bw (AFP, AP)