KEMRI headquaters, Nairobi
KEMRI headquaters, Nairobi

Staff at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) who are non-medical researchers are on go-slow over unpaid allowances and bad working conditions despite their frontline role in the war against the coronavirus.

They say the majority of the medical researchers have their hospitals which makes KEMRI part-time work.

The go-slow will lead to a contraction in the number of samples being tested.

This is because the medical doctors among the staff receive their health risk, extraneous and call allowances while the non-medical scientists, who do the bulk of the work, do not.

The non-medical staff include entomologists, immunologists and parasitologists.

Since the first case was confirmed in the country, KEMRI has so far conducted over 6,000 tests.

The KEMRI doctors only started receiving their allowances after going to court.

According to the institute's deputy director for co-operate affairs, Davis Mkoji, in 2011, the government issued a circular approving the payment of allowances to all the health workers in the country.

KEMRI staff were, however, not included in the circular. The doctors at KEMRI then went to court through their union and got an order that compelled the KEMRI management to pay them.

They have been receiving their allowances since 2018. Apart from the medical doctors, others who also get the allowances include clinical officers, nursing officers and all subordinate staff deployed to the institute's facilities offering clinical services.

The non-medical staff who are in the front-line of Covid-19 testing have cited discrimination that led to the go slow.

“It beats logic that clinical doctors who are not even part of this arrangement are paid allowances, yet those doing the testing are not paid,"

"What language do they want us to speak so that they listen to us? If is it a strike that will make them understand, then we will go on a go-slow,” said the source who did not want to be named as he is not authorised to talk to the media.

The researcher said their work is mostly in laboratories. They work in shifts (morning and evening) and are not allowed to interact.

“The only way we can compare notes with our colleagues is through phone calls when we resume work as they leave. We spend our own money to make phone calls. We do not receive phone allowances, yet our colleagues are paid despite not doing much,” said the insider.

He also said this would have been the best time for the government to work closely with researchers as they are the ones handling and testing all the Covid-19 samples.

He gave the example of a research scientist with a PhD working at the institute and who is not a medic earning Sh391,000 while a medical doctor with a master’s degree working in the same institute earns over Sh500,000.

“These are people who have side clinics and only give the institute half of their time while those who are dedicated to the organization are sidelined and discriminated against,"

"We are the ones in the front line now, and we are demanding that we are also given the allowances, or we will not work, ”

 “We deserve better treatment and a good working environment. How can a medical doctor right from the university earn more than a PhD scientist who is now working tirelessly to ensure that the target of Covid-19 tests is met every day?” 

According to another research scientist, three-quarters of all the research that takes place at Kemri is carried out by this cadre and that when the pandemic was first reported in the country, most of them were recalled to Nairobi conduct the tests.

 “Why didn’t the management recall the medical staff? Researchers need to be at peace and have a good working environment, not toiling and have nothing to show for it at the end of the month,” he said.

Mr Mkoji told the Sunday Nation that the Kemri management has been in talks with the relevant ministries to ensure that all employees are included in the allowances. “Two weeks ago, on April 14, we wrote to the relevant authority to allow us to pay the allowances.

We are very hopeful, especially now with the Covid-19, that the government will move with speed so that everyone is included in this arrangement,” he said.

He said the scientists who are now at the forefront of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic need the allowances since they are the ones doing the bulk of work and are working more hours to ensure that all the samples are tested.

 “All we are waiting for is a letter from the government giving us the go-ahead to pay them. This is not about Kemri,” he said.

 The Union of National Research Institutes Staff of Kenya (Un risk) secretary-general Zachariah Achacha has joined the call by its members in appealing to the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe to look into the welfare of the scientists adding that they are risking their lives by testing the coronavirus samples.

"These people work tirelessly and must be compensated and motivated. They need health risk, extraneous and emergency allowances and any other necessary allowances that their colleagues are getting,” said Mr Achacha.

Post a Comment

What is your say on this

Previous Post Next Post