NAIROBI, Kenya â€” A Kenyan judge Monday jailed seven officials of the medics union for a month for failing to call off a two-month strike by doctors at public hospitals that has seen at least a dozen die due to lack of medical care.
Judge Hellen Wasilwa said she could not delay further the contempt of court sentence she had suspended earlier on condition the doctors call off their strike. At least 5,000 doctors are on strike for better pay and to protest the dilapidated state of Kenya’s public health care.
“This court declines to review its order sentencing the applicants to one month jail term … you can now start serving your sentences, those are the orders of the court,” Wasilwa said.
Doctors want the government to implement pay raises in an agreement signed in 2013. That agreement would raise their salaries by 180 per cent. Currently doctors earn an average basic salary of $400 to $850 per month compared to a Kenya legislator who earns nearly $14,000 a month.
The strike has caused a near-total paralysis in the country’s health sector and many are believed to have died from a lack of emergency services. Early in December, President Uhuru Kenyatta said at least 20 people had died as a result of the strike.
Kenyatta has twice asked the doctors to return to work, first appealing to their humanity for the suffering masses and then offering a partial increase of the salary hikes agreed upon in 2013.
The doctors’ union â€” the Kenyan Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, rejected both offers and urged the government to pay the full salary increases it promised three years ago.
In 2012, Kenya’s doctors went on strike to protest the bad state of public health care. 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 cellphones to provide adequate light for a surgical procedure.
Tom Odula, The Associated Press