Crackdown intensifies as more striking medics shown the door

Friday, January 8th, 2021 00:00 |
A Mombasa resident walks past the main entrance of Coast General Provincial Hospital in Mombasa. The facility remained deserted following the sacking of over 80 doctors. Photo/PD/PNDEGWA GATHUNGU

The ongoing crackdown on striking health workers intensified yesterday with close to 500 doctors, nurses and clinical officers sent packing.

The doctors union complained that about 150 members had been sacked across three counties with Mombasa taking a huge chunk of the affected medics at 86, followed by Laikipia (34) and Kirinyaga (30), according to the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) spokesman Chibanzi Mwachonda.

Last evening, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council issued a news alert indicating that negotiations between the County Government of Mombasa and its officials were making good progress.

The council’s chief executive, Daniel Yumbia, said the ongoing dialogue between the two parties was aimed at lifting the sacking of the 86 doctors serving in various public health facilities in the coastal city.

“It has been agreed that the County Government of Mombasa has given commitment to achieving an amicable resolution of the issue being raised on immediate assumption of duties by the affected doctors, and any doctor who reports back to work immediately shall not be victimised nor face any disciplinary action,” Yumbia said while appealing to the affected doctors to report back to work immediately.

“In this regard we appeal to the affected doctors to report to work immediately, and the KMPDC, is ready to send a representative to take part in the current negotiations between the representatives of the KMPDU and the County Government of Mombasa,” Yumbia added in a statement to newsrooms.

On Wednesday, the Kisumu county government issued an order stopping salaries for about 428 nurses, a move that was seen as akin to sacking them, and yesterday, the County Government of Kisii dismissed 20 striking health workers.

In a letter signed on January 4 by Alice Abuki, chief officer in charge of Health Services at the county, the workers were asked not to access their work stations or any other county health facility within their jurisdictions.

“Please note that the officers whose names appear in the list were dismissed from Public Service by the office of the County Secretary and Head of Public Service with effect from December 19, 2020,” read the letter seen by People Daily.

However, Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) secretary general Seth Panyako dismissed the sacking reports, maintaining that the union was not aware of “any nurse” who had been procedurally relieved of their duties.

“Dismissing a public servant requires a procedure, which also means that dismissals also follow the same process.

Therefore, as far as we are concerned there is no nurse, not a single one, who has received a letter of dismissal from any county government, save for Kisii where union branch officials were allegedly sent away,” he added.

In the case of Kisumu, Panyako criticised the move to stop nurses’ salaries terming the move a tactic used by employers world over to institute some form of punishment, and therefore should not cause any worry.

Panyako, however, said the solution in the ongoing impasse lies in the hands of the national government and the Council of Governors reaching a way forward since health workers had signed their respective return to work formula.

“The differences that exist today are between the CoG and the national government.

It does not have anything to do with we the workers, because we have already signed return to work formula,” he said as the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco) announced late last evening they had no option but to activate their strike at the end of the 48 hours notice they had issued on Tuesday.

Secretary general George Gibore told People Daily that negotiations between the national government and CoG had yielded little progress.

“They are not in any way showing any signs of responding, so we have no option but to resume our nationwide strike from midnight,” Gibore said yesterday.

He said the action had been prompted by alleged ongoing intimidation of union members by various county governments, giving the example of Kisii county which had sacked union officials.

However, a survey by People Daily showed that some public health facilities were still open with a few health workers who were attending mostly patients with special needs. Some patients were shunning public health facilities and flocking private clinics for treatment while others resorted to buying drugs from chemists without prescriptions, endangering their lives.

 In Nakuru, services at all public health facilities in continued normally amid fresh threats from unions to resume boycott  barely days after resuming work.

A spot-check at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital revealed that operations were ongoing with doctors attending to patients.

Nakuru County Health Executive Dr Kariuki Gichuki confirmed that services were being offered at all hospitals in the region. He added that the county had held discussions with representatives of healthcare workers .

According to the CEC, they had addressed nearly all the concerns. 

“We have stocks of PPEs for our doctors to last us until April, also the county set up a special Covid-19 isolation unit for health workers so there is no reason for anyone not to attend work,” said Gichuki. Reports by George Kebaso, Robert Ochoro, Noven Owiti, Roy Lumbe and Monica Kagia

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