KMPDU national officials,

KMPDU branch officials,

Union members, colleagues in the noble profession

All protocols observed, Ladies and gentlemen.


It is my great privilege to have your audience.

I address you today as a member of a profession in mourning, in a country in crisis as the rest of the world moves on.

I thank God for the gift of a great union.

I thank the NEC for their extraordinary leadership to a membership that has at times been lethargic if not out rightly discouraging. On more than a couple of occasions, I have seen the chairman address this union with a veil in his words; a veil concealing the feelings of a leader almost pushed to the brink of hopelessness. Yet he ended his many a communiqué with his trademark words: ‘Keep the faith, keep praying’.

As we start this conference, we as members of this union may need to say sorry to NEC. Sorry for the times we did not live up to their expectations when they called upon us for meetings, contributions (financial, intellectual). Six months after submission of the Musyimi task force report we still have members thinking the report was compiled by the Hon. Rev. Mutava Musyimi! What a let-down! We owe ourselves an apology and a resolution to be different in future.

Two weeks ago the union called on us to boycott work in order to lower the hearing threshold of the managers of healthcare in this country. Yet some of us back-stabbed us and went to work, carrying on with the dishonourable reputation of using their pens to certify avoidable deaths. Senior colleagues in management remained in office. I don’t have a problem with that, but I differ with the decision by some of them to send erroneous reports to Afya House indicating that their facilities were functioning normally. They sought to remain in Afya House’s good books. Well, two weeks later they have proven themselves wrong! Salaries have been stopped. Suspension letters come by their thousands as our hospitals remain grounded.

We all know where we want healthcare to be in this country. We all know that will not happen through remote control. We are called upon to answer a reflective question posed by our CJ Willy Mutunga a few months ago: “How do you expect this society to move forward when people who have been commanded and paid to think refuse to think?”

We have got to think and act. Now!

Colleagues, we can no longer remain in the cocoon of the stethoscope and the lab coat. We have a chance to redeem the Kenyan healthcare from power barons who continue to mutilate it. Doesn’t it sound weird to you that no insurance company considers an accidental prick with an HIV/Hepatitis B virus contaminated needle as an accident worthy of their cover?

Ladies and gentlemen, we are dealing with an employer who knows not reward but punishment.

Five months ago after finishing my internship I was posted to Transmara, a district hospital at the heart of the land of the Maa. I came face to face with struggling healthcare. Hot on the heels of accelerated promotion from a dispensary, this hospital has no single staff house despite the biting housing shortage in the township. I wake up every day, get to work before eight most of the days and leave way past five before calls start streaming in. Occasionally I walk from my house to the hospital when there is an emergency and the hospital vehicle cannot pick me up for lack of fuel.

I have kept going driven by the believe that every Kenyan is entitled to healthcare, and that it’s my responsibility to avail the best service I can while the government avails the infrastructure, the medicine and the non-pharms. I have held the conviction that in my small village hospital in Muthara, Meru County, my colleague there does the same. To me that is the real gist of the Hippocratic Oath! Forget about the demagogic implorations peddled by BA graduates and wildlife conservationists who aren’t familiar even with the opening line of that oath.

Occasionally when I had a day or two off I would pass by a friend- a former college mate now doing internship- and we would spare a few minutes for lunch as he shared with me his frustrations at his hospital.

Two months ago my salary was stopped. Not because of any paperwork I have not done but by the casualness of Afya House staff that at times makes me wonder whether house girls and shamba boys wouldn’t fare better with similar assignments.  

So for the second month running I remain without salary; and for the sixth month running my intern friend remains without his salary. For the umpteenth month, the self sponsored registrar remains without salary. Now that is what is called SLAVERY!

If you are too young or too lucky to have had your salary arbitrarily stopped, call me a prophet of doom if you may but if things remain as they are, by the time your unborn child celebrates their 1st birthday you may have to walk to Afya House wondering just what happened!

When the teachers called off their strike a few days ago I mourned. I mourned as I wondered how to raise fees for my siblings going back for their third term. I’ve got a feeling I am not alone in this. There are many of us who are the only support for their siblings and parents, kids and spouses. The story of Dr. Belinda tells it all. But that does not justify me creeping back to work or scrambling for locums in private establishments paying 7 dollars an hour where the middle class patient and the facility proprietor insult me with equal wanton! I SAY END THE SLAVERY!

If the absence of one month’s salary shakes us to the core then, ladies and gentlemen, we stopped living a while ago. We just exist. We are just survivors in a vicious cycle of poverty. What if one day you woke up to a blank payslip and Afya House took months to reinstate your salary? Wouldn’t you still carry on as you called on the union kuingilia kati? What if, God forbid, you fell sick today? Would you still be in the leading pack in the rat race?

I don’t wish to reiterate why we are on strike, I don’t even care why. This is not the moment of comparing factors for or against the strike. We are past the action potential and we have got no business pretending we can stop this neurone from firing.

 It is the time to briefly abandon the inertia of personal convenience and gain.

Dear colleagues, it is time we temporarily abandoned the mind set of self-preservation and took on a higher mind-set. That mind-set of a male dog that’s hit by a car because he is blindly running after a female dog on heat in a supraphysiological drive to perpetuate a lineage. That’s the mind-set. The mind-set of societal preservation above self-preservation.

Our dying healthcare will not experience a Lazarus effect from this strike. However, we can have the chance to avert its mortality and hurl it into the ICU for critical management and close monitoring.

We won’t avert that mortality if all a pharmacist does in that dispensing room is to write three obnoxious words ‘OUT OF STOCK’ on every prescription.

We won’t avert that mortality when all my colleague dentist can do is extracting a tooth.

We won’t avert that mortality if I continue doing emergency C/Section for APH at 3 AM with only a pair of gloves and a torch for lighting because there is a blackout and the generator, if functional, has no fuel. IT WON’T WORK!

Not when a consultant in a provincial hospital has to punctuate his teaching with the words….IN AN IDEAL SETTING….IN GOOD CENTRES! IT WON’T WORK!

Fellow doctors, today we think at a different level. We think at the level of preserving the dignity of this profession and bequeathing our society a better healthcare. As people who have been mostly excellent or good students throughout our lives, it will be a huge let down if we fail to win this war.

Even more significantly, it will be a tragedy if we are accused of having failed to try.

It is incumbent on you to look for something appropriate to tag your conviction on. It may be for your salary. It may be for those sleepless call nights when you have resuscitated a patient but the lack of equipment and medicine let you down.  It may be for the pain of combining 80 working hours per week with parallel locums to provide for your kid and pay your rent while your thesis waits. It may be just the imaginative desire to see a better healthcare. Just look for something. Because when you do that, your conscience is clear.

Today we send the strongest message to Afya House. That there are two people you can’t win a war against: a convinced person at piece with their conscience and a person with nothing to lose.

In every Kenyan doctor, you have these two combined.

You think you can scare me by stopping my salary? You did that long time ago while I wasn’t on strike.

You think you can con me back into the wards by playing into the public gallery through the platitudes of doing a ‘ward round’ on simulated patients and paramedics masquerading as doctors? Well, take my IQ, divide it by two and I still will see the folly.

You think you can hide behind courts which you have disregarded as you assumed mandates of constitutional statutory bodies? Well, be my guest.

We welcome Afya House to try more tricks but they should know that;

From Garissa where a doctor has to put up in a hotel for a year before they can get a rental house- which is at times shared by up to five people- to Tana River where a government hospital has to depend on private donations to handle a medical emergency of international proportions yet our leaders remain mute;

From Nairobi where the sharpest minds in our country, the best evidence-driven doctors have to be forced into working 80 hours a week at zero shillings per day on top of a few insults and insubordinations, to Lodwar where ambulances have to break down as they cover hundreds of kilometres to get a patient to a referral centre;







Thank you.


Dr. Aruyaru SM

Share     Report     Print Article
1 comment