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Embu Governor invites striking doctors for talks

Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire has extended an olive branch to the county’s 97 doctors who went on strike beginning Tuesday midnight.

The Governor told the aggrieved medics that her office was open to let them know which of their demands could be met immediately, and also work out a plan on how the long term issues could be met.

Addressing the media after touring the Embu level V Hospital to assess the situation following the strike, Mbarire also assured the public that services were still being given in spite of the standoff, albeit at a slower pace than normal.

She said as a contingency, the county government had hired 21 stand-in doctors and some clinical officers to continue offering services as the situation gets resolved.

The medics went on strike over a raft of issues including lack of promotions, non-remittance of loan and statutory deductions, not being allowed to go for further studies, while also urging for doctors who are currently on contract terms be converted into permanent terms.

Mbarire acknowledged that all the doctors’ grievances were genuine and said that the resolution of some of them was work in progress, while others required careful planning so as not to paralyze other services.

She cited the clearance of debts arising from unremitted statutory deductions, where she said that although she found her government owed Sh587million when she took over office, they had cleared Sh300 million and were in the process of settling the balance.

The governor said they are currently remitting deductions as soon as they are deducted, adding that only the months of September and October, 2023 were outstanding.

On study leave, she said some 22 doctors are out for further studies and they had stopped further releases until they returned, otherwise the health department would only be having staff on study leave on the payroll, but with no services to the public.

She said her government had developed a policy where no more than 10 percent of any cadre will be allowed to be out at any one time, so as to ensure continuity of quality service at all times.

On the delayed promotions, the Governor said they needed some sh400 million to effect the promotions that the government did not have at the moment since it had given priority to providing medicines and essential supplies.

However, she expressed willingness to work out a plan with the doctors to see how the promotions will be done.

Mbarire added that as part of improving the working conditions in the county hospitals, they had recruited nurses and other support staff on contract, which was cheaper than recruiting on permanent terms.

By Steve Gatheru

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