‘Why we are unable to post doctor interns’ – CS Nakhumicha

Wednesday, July 10th, 2024 09:42 | By
Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha.
Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha. PHOTO/@MOH_Kenya/X

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha has explained why the government is yet to post doctor interns despite signing an agreement with the doctors' union on the same.

In a statement on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, Nakhumicha decried lack of funds as the main reason for the delayed posting.

"Over the years, the government has consistently allocated funds towards the internship program. However, due to the exponential increase in the number of public and private training institutions, more than 6-fold in 20 years churning graduates, and foreign-trained graduates, the cost of the program has progressively outstripped the available financial resources," she stated.

"Consequently, 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 ten years. Key amongst the issues in the recently concluded industrial action was posting of interns."

Nakhumicha says that since January 2023, the Ministry has posted 4,156 interns across the six cadres, including 1,214 medical officers 496 pharmacists and 25 dentists at a monthly rate of Ksh206,400.

Others include 874 nurses, 506-degree clinical officers and 1,930 diploma clinical officers.

"All these interns are expected to have completed their internship by June 2024 at a total cost of KES 4.2 billion."

Following 56 days of industrial unrest by the doctors, the government and medics signed a return-to-work formula agreement on May 8, 2024.

According to the agreement, the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists Dentists Union (KMPDU) preferred that an intern be posted based on the 2017 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) rates of Ksh206,400 per month.

Nakhumicha on reality

However, Nakhumicha says the realities of the fiscal space coupled with the withdrawal of the Finance Bill 2024 cannot permit this.

"An advisory from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), advising on a monthly stipend of Ksh70,000 to facilitate the posting of all interns was challenged in the Employment and Labor Relations Court. This matter still awaits determination on 26th September 2024," she added.

The CS says the total number of interns awaiting posting across the cadres is 3,760 for a total budget of Ksh4.8 billion.

"Due to budget ceiling, the Ministry received an allocation of Ksh3.7 billion in the Financial Year 2024/2025 for internship. The court case notwithstanding, the parties agreed to continue pursuing a consensus position within 60 days that ended on Sunday 7th July 2024, as a means of unlocking the stalemate out of court," Nakhumicha said.

She says the government has an option of posting all doctor interns at the recommended SRC stipend rate of Ksh70,000 per month or waiting for the court's direction on September 26, 2024.

Alternatively, Nakhumicha says the government could use the funds allocated in the 2024/2025 Financial Year to post the interns as per the CBA rates in batches.

"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," Nakhumicha says.

"It is regrettable that despite the open and candid discussions with the union officials and representatives of the interns, a few individuals are attempting to use the demonstrations and assembly as an opportunity to paint an image of inaction, neglect and incompetence against the Ministry of Health, hoping that this will propagate a feeling of hopelessness and incite chaos among the wider population."

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