MAKUENI, Kenya, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday called on striking health workers in public hospitals to go back to work and give room to talks with the government over their pay rise.
The doctors and nurses stopped working on Monday, demanding the implementation of a 2013 deal with the government on a 300 percent salary rise.
President Kenyatta, who is on a visit to eastern Kenya, said a solution would be found to the issue but lamented the death of close to 20 patients since the strike started.
"Let us be human and be mindful of the lives of the patients. I am confident that we will find a solution to the problem," Kenyatta told health workers, saying that even when an agreement is reached, "those lives will have been lost".
He was speaking in Makindu town, Makueni County after he commissioned the Kenya Medical Training Center Makindu campus and launched medical equipment at the Makindu Sub-County Hospital.
His remarks came as Kenya's Labour Relations Court ordered leaders of the two health workers' unions organizing the strike to appear in court on December 13 over the defiance of a court order issued last week to suspend the then planned strike.
Judge Helen Wasilwa said she would issue arrest warrants if they failed to appear in court.
The authorities and the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) agreed on Monday in a consultative meeting that within a period of one week, all counties should sign "Recognition Agreements" and within a period of 30 days they should negotiate and sign Collective Bargaining Agreements with the KNUN.
In Kenya, some health workers in public hospitals are paid by county governments.
Kenyatta on Wednesday said county governors and the ministry of health had been for weeks engaging the unions to resolve the matter and called on the striking health workers not to allow lives to be lost.
Meanwhile, KNUN Secretary-General Seth Panyako said on the same day they would not call off the strike until a harmonized Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed and a commitment to payments made.
"The strike is 100 percent successful and we will not back down. Disparities within the public sector must be corrected. We are asking the naysayers to watch us," Panyako said.