Kenyan judge orders doctors’ union officials to be jailed

A Kenyan judge orders that officials from the national doctors’ union be jailed for one month amid an ongoing strike over pay and conditions in public hospitals.

NAIROBI, KENYA (FEBRUARY 13, 2017) (REUTERS) – A Kenyan judge on Monday (February 13) ordered officials from the national doctors’ union to be jailed amid a strike in public hospitals.

Doctors in public hospitals have been on strike since December 5 over pay and conditions.

In December, a court ruled that the strike was illegal in December. And last month, Justice Hellen Wasilwa sentenced leaders to jail for ignoring her earlier ruling, but suspended the sentence to allow negotiations.

On Monday, she ordered union officials arrested.

As news of the ruling emerged, truckloads of riot police took up positions and doctors wearing white gowns and surgical caps blew whistles and chanted angrily in the street.

A series of corruption scandals, including an investigation into millions of dollars allegedly missing from the Health Ministry, has bolstered support for the doctors.

But Kenyan media have reported that patients have died during the strike.

The union has about 5,000 members. It wants the government to implement a deal agreed in 2013 to give doctors a 150-180 percent pay rise on basic salaries; review working conditions, job structures and criteria for promotions and address under-staffing in state hospitals.

The government has said it can only afford a 40 percent pay rise.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union had warned that doctors in private hospitals might also strike if union officials were jailed.

University lecturers are also striking over pay, deepening a political crisis ahead of the elections in August when Kenyans choose the next president, members of parliament and local governors.