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Medics lose bid to stop devolution of health services

19 December 2013, 08:15 Millicent Kawii

Nairobi - Health workers’ Unions yesterday lost their bid in court to halt the transfer of health services to county governments.

High Court Judge George Odunga dismissed the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, (KMPDU) and the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN)  case, challenging  inadequate structures laid out for the transfer of medical services to county governments with regards to health workers salaries.

“We have considered all the issues raised in the instant application and are not satisfied that the health workers Unions demands are merited,” judge Odunga said.

Justice Odunga  who delivered the judgment in the absence of Justice Weldon Korir and Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi who had heard the case declined to grant the health workers Unions demands, but pointed out the fact that the issues raised are in effect matters which affect the general public.

The judge also categorically told the Transition Authority that it had not indicated that the country has adequate number of medical personnel before devolving the health services to the counties and pointed out the inadequate doctor-patient ratio of 1: 17,000.

“It is clear health policy remains a function of the national government, the inadequacies of provision of health services in this country is a matter of national concern and it is the obligation of the national government to ensure that every person’s right to the highest attainable standard of health as in Article 34 of the constitution,” the judge said.

“The fact that health services are devolved does not discharge the national government from its obligation as we do not see how the delay in devolving health services will change the situation with respect to poor health services in the short term since the shortage of personnel and poor infrastructure exists,” he ruled.

He however faulted the allegation that clear public participation was not involved when the Gazette Notice by the Transition Authority in relation to the transfer of health services to county governments was published.

“Whereas the adequacy and extent of the participation of the public in such forums and in the decision making process may be challenged, we are not satisfied that the Unions demonstrated that the consultative process was inadequate,” judge Odunga said.

The Unions through their lawyer Simon Makori had alleged that the Transition Authority failed to indicate the standardization of salaries and promotions, as well as determining manner in which pensions will be handled by the miniature administrations.

They wanted the court to halt the transfer process as well as a gazette notice.

They also alleged that the decision was made without public participation.

Ms Lucy Kambuni who represented the Authority had dismissed the Unions allegations that the process had no public participation as members the health workers unions have been aware of through meetings and letters.

KMPDU’s vice chair Dr Vitalis Ogola and KNUN’s chair Josphinus Musundi as well as other health workers were present when the judgment was delivered and indicated their intend to appeal the case.

The Unions were directed to file an appeal within the next 14 days.

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