Interns posting threatened by low-budget

Thursday, July 11th, 2024 09:30 | By
Kenyan medical interns. PHOTO/Print
Kenyan medical interns. PHOTO/Print

The posting of 658 medical interns hangs in the balance largely due to a limited budget, it has emerged.

According to Health Cabinet Secretary, Susan Nakhumicha, the available budget allocation can only cater for the posting of 552 medical interns out of the 1,210 agreed upon by the government and doctors last May.

In response to the picketing and vigil at Afya House by the doctor interns this week, Nakhumicha said the Ministry is toying with three options in its bid to permanently solve their posting, one of them being to utilize the Sh3.7 billion allocation in the financial year 2024/25 for internship.

“With the allocated funds, the Ministry will be able to post at least 552 interns immediately, followed by the rest as more resources become available which would be indefinite,” said the CS in a statement on Tuesday night, adding that the contentious clause in the latest industrial unrest is their compensation.

Various options

She noted that this was arrived at after meetings with Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) last weekend, which explored various options.

“The latest of these meetings which ran through the weekend explored various options including posting of all doctor interns at the recommended Salaries Remuneration Commission (SRC) stipend of Sh70,000 per month; wait for the court’s direction on September 26, 2024, and using the funds allocated in the 2024/25 financial year budget, post the interns as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) rates in batches,” Nakhumicha stated.

She said that this is intended for execution as discussions continue within government to find additional resources.

The CS gave a chronology of events that led to the delay to post interns which ran into several financial years, but called on the public not to misinterpret this as inaction on the part of the government.

“Over the years, the government has consistently allocated funds towards the internship program. However, due to the exponential increase in the number of the public and private training institutions, more than six-fold in 20 years churning graduates, and the foreign trained graduates, the cost of the program has progressively outstripped the available financial resources,” she said.

Growing backlog

Consequently, Nakhumicha pointed out that a growing backlog of graduates awaiting posting to the internship centres has been the subject of recurrent industrial action within the health sector, over the last 10 years.

Key amongst the issues, she noted, is the recently concluded industrial action on the posting of interns.

“The Ministry is cognizant of the negative impact created by the continued delays in the posting of interns,” she said, expressing empathy with the young doctors even as the Ministry works round the clock to find a practical solution to the prevailing situation.

The CS further pointed out that it is the desire of the Ministry, to post all the interns immediately, despite the anticipated budget cuts, stemming from the withdrawal of the Finance Bill 2024.

The 56 days of industrial unrest by the doctors culminated into a Return-to-work Formula agreement signed by the government and the Union on May 8.

The agreement, she reiterated, is contained in a proposal on how to unlock the stalemate around the posting of 1, 210 medical interns.

“Whereas KMPDU preferred that an intern be posted based on the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) rates of Sh206, 400 per month, the realities of the fiscal space coupled with the withdrawal of the Finance Bill 2024 cannot permit this,” the CS said.

Further, an advisory from the Salaries and remuneration Commission (SRC), advised on a monthly stipend of Sh70, 000 to facilitate the posting of all interns, but this was challenged in the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

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