Union officials jailed over doctors' strike in Kenya

The KMA also announced the members would withdraw their services in all private hospitals and university teaching facilities for 48 hours starting Tuesday.

Doctors in public hospitals have been on strike since December 5 to protest working conditions in public hospitals, among other issues.

"We are horrified, disturbed and shocked", he said in a statement.

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

Doctors' Union representatives were Monday, February 13, sentenced to a one-month jail term for contempt of court. "The orders of this court will now crystallise and you can now start serving your sentences", Judge Wasilwa ruled.

The jailing has been blamed on the Jubilee government which apparently signed a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the doctors in June 2013. Public hospitals have been without doctors for almost three months.

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Judge Hellen Wasilwa lifted the suspension on the one-month sentence she had imposed on the officials.

"Considering that the union leaders have been jailed for no criminal offence and further noting that we consider them prisoners of conscience, We ask that the court of appeal sets aside the current Judgment and further demand that the government takes all necessary steps to end the judicial circus to amicably resolve this crisis", the doctors body said.

Kenya's reluctance to invest in a first-class health system seems counterintuitive as the country boasts one of world's fastest growing economies and a national budget of about $16 billion. Early in December, President Kenyatta said at least 20 people had died as a result of the strike.

The agreement was also meant to boost Kenya's public health system, with funds for medical research and doctor training to improve skills. "The government needs to make an offer that would be acceptable until that happens", he said. Emergency rooms in some of Kenya's public hospitals frequently don't have gloves or medicine, and power outages sometimes force doctors to use their cell phones to provide adequate light for a surgical procedure.

Corruption is a big part of the problem.

However, the government maintains it can only afford 40 percent.

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  • Joey Payne