Although health worker strikes are experienced globally, their effects have been argued to be the worst in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Strike actions range from merely halting work for a few hours, through curtailing of non-critical services to complete stoppage of work. Health worker strikers elicit significant ethical debates, because of their ability to harm patients and the broader public. However, strikes do not automatically impact on health outcomes such as mortality or cause a total shut down of health service delivery. Rather, the effects depend on the length of the strike, the specific strike actions adopted, responses by the management and the ability of affected populations to access alternative care. This research explores the perceptions and experiences of frontline health managers and community members during the 2017 prolonged health worker strikes. We examine their views regarding why the strikes happened, what effects the strikes had on households and health providers and discuss strategies to minimise the potential for further strikes, reduce the negative effects of strikes when they occur, and nurture health system resilience more broadly. This work was conducted in the Kenyan Coast as part of our ‘learning site’ research, where researchers and health managers have a long-term relationship and work together to decide on research questions and how these questions might be answered.
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For more information contact Dennis Waithaka DWaithaka@kemri-wellcome.org