Doctors and medical practitioners in several private healthcare facilities in Kenya began a 48-hour strike on Wednesday to protest the jailing of seven medical union officials for refusing to call off an ongoing strike in the public health sector.

This, even as the court of appeal ordered for the release of the doctors to allow the conclusion on going negotiations aimed at ending the strike.

Parties in the dispute agreed to start talks on Thursday and present to the court a return to work formula within the next seven days.

Doctors in Kenya’s Public hospitals have been on strike for more than 70 days demanding higher salaries, better working conditions and well-equipped public healthcare facilities.

The battle moved to the Court of Appeal.

This time, the doctors are here to demand the release of their union officials who were jailed on Monday this week for contempt of court after they failed to call off the strike.

In December, the court ruled that the strike was illegal. In their midst, private healthcare practitioners who shut their doors in solidarity with their colleagues.

The three judge bench agreed to release the seven union officials, but ordered that they return to the court in seven days with a return to work formula agreed upon by all.

An unknown number of Kenyans unable to afford private healthcare services have died since the doctors downed their tools.

The matter has attracted public interest because of allegations that the Health Ministry has misappropriated millions of shillings.

The doctors are demanding between 150 to 180% pay increment, better working conditions and equipment for public health facilities across the country.

– By Sarah Kimani