Sick Kenyans were turned away from hospitals, and patients left stranded in their wards as a crippling strike by doctors and nurses demanding pay rises entered a second day Tuesday.
Several patients are reported to have died as a result of lack of care in public hospitals, many of which are completely unstaffed. Kenyans have been directed to private clinics that are unaffordable to the majority of the population.
“We have had a lot of patients leaving our facility because we have no services offered due to the ongoing strike,” said David Mukabi, the superintendent in charge of Busia hospital in western Kenya.
He said a 24-year-old patient had died on Monday night as a result of the stayaway. Meanwhile two women died at the Port Victoria Hospital in western Budalangi.
“Two patients died last night … because of the strike because there was no one to attend to them,” said an official at the hospital.
Local media reported tales of patients suffering burns or in labour left stranded in front of hospitals. At one hospital in western Kenya a security guard had to help a woman give birth, while in another an orphaned child was left alone in an empty ward with no parents to organise her transfer, The Standard daily reported.
On Monday more than 100 patients escaped from Kenya’s only psychiatric hospital in the capital Nairobi as the strike started, police commander Japheth Koome told AFP.
Unions are demanding a 300-percent pay rise for doctors and 25- to 40-percent pay rise for nurses that they say was agreed upon in a 2013 collective bargaining agreement, but has yet to be implemented.
Ouma Oluga, secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPPDU), said striking workers had been called to a meeting at the health ministry but government officials never showed up.
“The government of Kenya will either have to pay doctors or will have none of them,” Oluga said on Monday.
“We continue to appeal to the health workers to resume duty as we continue with the negotiations,” said health cabinet secretary Cleopa Mailu.
Many Kenyans on social media support the strike, pointing to scandals in corruption-plagued Kenya in which millions of dollars have been embezzled or gone unaccounted for, while the doctors struggle for wage increases.