Kenyan healthcare workers to begin strike

Healthcare workers across Kenya are set to go on strike today to demand increased compensation and protective gear for front-line

Kenyan doctors on strike in 2017

Photo: Reuters/Thomas Muikoya

Healthcare workers across Kenya are set to go on strike today to demand increased compensation and protective gear for front-line workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenyan healthcare workers warned the government that they would stay home if it refused to address their grievances. In addition to lacking personal protective equipment, healthcare workers are displeased that wages vary in state-owned hospitals and that some workers do not receive health insurance. Although the government is providing hazard pay in the form of an additional “risk allowance”, this amount has been unequally distributed among healthcare workers. Furthermore, the Kenya National Union of Clinical Officers found that inadequate public transportation has increased healthcare workers’ risk of infection.

Kenya faces a critical shortage of healthcare workers, particularly in the public healthcare system, which is utilised by the majority of the population. Today’s strike will complicate the pandemic response in Kenya, and thus will likely force the government to engage with healthcare workers’ grievances, in hopes of enticing them to quickly return to testing and treating a growing number of COVID-19 patients. Mostly likely, the government will concede to providing compensation for risks associated with public transportation and deficient protective gear, but it is unclear if the government will address the unequal compensation issues that have systemically plagued the system.

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