Seven officials of Kenya’s medics union have been jailed for failing to end a nationwide strike by doctors at public hospitals, which has caused several deaths over the past 10 weeks.
Judge Hellen Wasilwa said Monday that the officials from the Kenyan Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union were jailed over their contempt for a court order last month, which called on them to end the strike.
“This court declines to review its order sentencing the applicants to one month jail term ... you can now start serving your sentences, those are the orders of the court,” Wasilwa said, adding that the officials of the union have not demonstrated to court any compelling evidence over the past month that would warrant review of the court's order.
Doctors on strike say the government has repeatedly backtracked on its promises to implement pay raises under an agreement signed in 2013.
The medics currently earn an average basic salary of $400 to $850 per month, less than a tenth of a normal pay for a legislator in the African country. Doctors also say that dilapidated facilities in hospitals and lack of supplies have caused widespread disruption in the healthcare sector.
In early December 2016, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that at least 20 people had died as a result of the strike that caused a near-total paralysis in Kenya's health sector.
Kenyatta has asked the doctors to return to work, first appealing to doctors’ humanity for the suffering masses and then offering a partial increase of the salary hikes agreed in 2013.
The union has rejected both appeals, saying the government has to pay the full salary increases, which would see a rise of about 180 percent.
Doctors staged a similar walkout in Kenya in 2012 over the bad state of public healthcare. Some doctors said at the time that they had to use their cell phones to provide adequate light for a surgical procedure during power outages.