Kenyan healthcare workers have hit out at the government over salary delays occasioned by failure to disburse funds to counties.

The workers, in a joint statement read by Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU) Secretary General Dr. Davji Atellah on Tuesday, vowed to down their tools if they’re not paid their dues within the next 7 days.

They cited a letter by Council of Governors (CoG) Chairperson Anne Waiguru which stated that the National Treasury presently owes county governments Ksh.92 billion, saying the healthcare sector seems to not have been given the required priority in the devolution structure of government adopted 10 years ago.

The healthcare workers, through their various unions and societies, hence wamt the government to release the funds to counties with immediate effect, so as to enable them facilitate salary payments among other things.

“It should worry any Kenyan of goodwill that close to 40 counties have neither paid healthcare workers their salaries nor remitted statutory deductions. The few that have managed to pay salaries, have reported having arrangements with banks for overdrafts and loans. We find it preposterous that government employees, especially those that provide essential services in the health sector, are continuously inundated with notifications of delayed salary payments and statutory deductions,” stated Dr. Atellah.

“Healthcare is a public good and an essential service unfortunately, the essential service providers cannot access their pay like other public servants managed by the National Government such as the independent commissions e.g. police and Teachers Service Commission. It is damning to say the least that, our members cannot afford the same services they offer. Subsequently, these affects healthcare worker’s standard of living, motivation and thereby injuring their productivity.”

The workers further pushed for the healthcare function to be removed from the counties and returned to the national government, which should henceforth be responsible for paying their salaries.

They also want statutory deductions to be remitted promptly, adding that a special budget should also be created for the purposes of hiring more healthcare workers annually.

“The unions demand that the government establishes mechanism to pays healthcare workers directly from a central point. A budget should be set aside for annual recruitment of 20,000 additional healthcare workers as promised to Kenyans,” Dr. Atellah added.

“The Ministry of Health (should) constitute a joint national taskforce to do a health audit and provide long-term solutions to the numerous challenges facing health service delivery in Kenya.”

The KMPDU boss added: “Within 7 days, counties that shall have not paid the salaries and statutory deductions should not expect healthcare workers to report on duty. It is only through this, and various other recommendations made by the union to the national government in the recent past, that we – as a country – will be able to fix healthcare and make it work for all Kenyans.”

By Fred Azelwa.