Kenya’s government has threatened to dismiss over 5,000 doctors who have been on strike for more than a month. The doctors will be fired if they do not return to work at public hospitals on Wednesday. Justice Hellen Wasilwa at the Kenyan Employment and Labor Relations Court has already issued warrants for the arrest of seven officials with the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union.
The judge had ordered the officials to call off the strike, ruling that it was illegal. On December 7, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called on striking medical workers in public hospitals to halt their walkout, citing the death of about 20 people since the start of the strike three days before. All doctors and nurses in public hospitals across the country have been on strike since early December over low salaries.
The walkout has put emergency cases at a higher risk of death as private healthcare is unaffordable to most Kenyans. In recent weeks, Kenyan patients were turned away from hospitals and sick people have been stranded in wards.
Unions are calling for a pay raise of 300 percent for doctors and 25 to 40 percent for nurses. They say the deal was agreed in a 2013 collective bargaining but has not been implemented so far. Kenya’s medical workers have complained for a decade about low wages and poor working conditions. Thousands of doctors have also taken jobs in other countries.