It’s an early Thursday morning, 6.50am to be precise. The mid June weather is unforgivingly cold. I am out already, to meet my colleagues for group discussion. Mid year exams are fast approaching. I find a sheltered spot in the Com-care restaurant of KNH and huddle to my notes waiting for my friends to arrive. As I pour on the myriad of drugs and their pharmacological properties, my attention momentarily delves into an approaching trio- two gentlemen and a lady, all dressed in scrubs, golden badges and lab coats, clinging to the latter for warmth. I steal glances at them watching as they select yet another sheltered corner, sit down and order breakfast.
They looked thoroughly spent. Once the coffee and other accompaniments were delivered, they dug in- almost ravenously, the pride that comes with being a doctor was perhaps their only restraint. They refrained from making any exchanges amongst themselves for a while. I became more curious.
As soon as the caffeine and glucose kicked in however, they started conversing in low tones. It is from eavesdropping their exchanges where I would learn that they had been up since mid night in theater. I did not hear the intricate details but whatever procedure it was that they had been doing must have been complicated. What seemed to bother them more was not their obvious fatigue, rather a task they were supposed to accomplish: a major write up to some department that, according to them, took so much time and effort to compile yet was only worth a mere percentage of course work. As they wrapped up their brief breakfast and headed out, I slowly fathomed just how complicated a doctors and more specifically a registrar’s morning can be.
Later on in the day (and in many other days before and after that) I brushed shoulders with similar doctors- registrars. From the minor theater of the casualty in KNH to the dissecting table of the morgue’s autopsy room. These older sisters and brothers in the profession conduct clinics and offer medical services to the larger Kenyan citizenry, majority of whom are poor, on behalf of the hospital. They man the wards, run the Operating Rooms, ensure the smooth running of the entire hospital and also mentor medical students: all this, unfortunately, without any returns.
All work and no pay
Being a doctor has never been simple. Serving in a ‘noble profession’ puts one in an awkward position as far as bargaining for rights is concerned. Being a registrar is something else. A majority have to raise their own fees in the background of an unpaid study leave. As aforementioned, they offer medical services around the clock to the hospital and teaching to medics for no enumeration. Most have families to care and be there for, a hard feat to pull since they also has to lo-cam to make ends meet. All this happens under the umbrella of a bureaucratic education system and to top it all off- one has to excel so as to graduate. In essence, being a registrar is an insurmountable affair. It therefore follows that sentiments by the government in view of their demands for payment as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unusual’ are complete crass.
A government that cares for its people should have in mind the imperative nature of a proper healthcare system. The backbone of the latter is a country’s doctors. It is rather disturbing that the government would choose to dump mud and dirt on the on going quagmire with medical registrars instead of encouraging positive negotiation. In the light that a well funded health care system and motivated doctors directly culminates to Kenyans benefiting immensely from better health care, the way the government has been handling the frequent fall outs with its doctors is a big shame. After all, most of those who run the government seek healthcare from outside the country. Indeed, by literally enslaving its doctors, the government is showing blatant lack of concern to the needs of its people.
Keep keeping on
As a medical student, I support the stand that the registrars and KMPDU have taken. While fighting for their own rights, the rights of a majority of Kenyans and paving way for the younger medics, it goes further to show that the seemingly feeble voice of reason shall in the end be heard and heard out loud. I hope other doctors and Kenyans at large will join in in solidarity with you, surfing bravely on that long awaited wave of change. Finally, the far we have come should serve to fuel your current efforts. For as long as the stream of doctors’ power runs persistently, the rock of slavery and exploitation will gradually but surely wear out. The struggle continues.