A Kenyan court on Monday ordered that officials from the national doctors’ union be jailed for one month over the ongoing strike that has crippled public hospitals for 10 weeks.
“This court decides to resume its order sentencing the applicants to a one month jail term,” Justice Hellen Wasilwa said.
“The applicants have not demonstrated to court any new and compelling issue, or pointed out any mistake or error apparent on the record, or any sufficient cause that would warrant review of the court’s order,” Wasilwa said.
It was gathered that seven officials were handcuffed and driven to jail past placard-waving supporters gathered outside the court.
Following the ruling, truckloads of riot police were seen taking up positions while doctors wearing white gowns and surgical caps blew whistles and chanted angrily in the street.
Doctors in public hospitals have been on strike since December 5 over pay and conditions.
This is just as the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union had previously warned that doctors in private hospitals might also strike if union officials were jailed.
A series of corruption scandals, including an investigation into millions of dollars allegedly missing from the Health Ministry, has bolstered support for the doctors, even though Kenyan media has reported that patients have died during the strike.
The union, which has about 5,000 members, wants the government to implement a deal agreed in 2013 to give doctors a 150-180 percent pay rise on basic salaries; review working conditions, job structures and criteria for promotions and address under-staffing in state hospitals.
While the government said it can only afford a 40 percent pay rise, doctors have rejected the offer, saying it falls short of promises made in a 2013 agreement.