Crisis as hospitals face staff shortage

Thursday, January 21st, 2021 00:00 |
Nurses and clinical officers demonstrate in Mombasa. Photo/PD/NDEGWA GATHUNGU

The industrial action by healthcare workers continues to paralyse services across public hospitals as low-income patients continue to bear the brunt.  

Public health facilities have been grappling with staff challenges for more than a month since frontline workers downed their tools, citing failure by their employer to honour a deal on improving terms of service.  

Despite the striking workers’ acknowledging the negative impact of a prolonged strike on the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, they have vowed to remain put until the national and county governments meet their demands.  

In Homa Bay and Kisumu counties, public hospitals remained closed with patients left stranded.  

A spot check by People Daily in various health facilities yesterday established that there were little activities going on as health service providers were still away.  

In Homa Bay for instance, the county government has threatened to withhold salaries for the striking workers this month.  

Health Executive Prof Richard Muga, while maintaining the nurses strike was illegal, said they are contemplating taking further disciplinary action against the health staff should they fail to report back to work soon.  

“We have continued to plead with them to go back to work, a position they have declined. The county government will cease to pay their salaries beginning this month,” Muga told People Daily.  

Muga said the county government has addressed most of the issues raised by the health staff and is working on to implement their comprehensive medical cover.  

However, Muga noted that some of the healthcare service providers’ demands such as risk allowances are beyond the county government and can only be handled by the national government.  

His move comes after Kisumu County Government early this month stopped salaries for its over 400 nurses.  

In Mombasa, over 700 nurses, 165 clinical officers and 171 laboratory officers yesterday marched to Governor Hassan Joho’s office, demanding among other issues, remittance of statutory deductions.  

According to Mombasa nurses’ union secretary Peter Maroko, the medics are also demanding Covid-19 risk allowances, compensation for members who succumb to Corona, group life insurance and implementation of pending promotions for qualified members. 

“We are disappointed that the county government was quick to address the plight of doctors and ignored our genuine concerns, this is discrimination and profiling of nurses, who do the bulky work,” said Maroko.  

Similar situation  

Mombasa County has lost two nurses who were working at the isolation centers in Likoni and Portreitz hospitals since the Covid-19 strike. 

Just a week after doctors entered into a Return-To-Work Formula; the nurses have decried discrimination and profiling by Joho’s administration, warning that they will not relent on their quest.  

 “We will not be intimidated. If our demands are not met, we will continue with strike,” said Kenya Union of clinical officers Mombasa branch secretary Frankline Makanga.  

 The situation was similar in Taita Taveta County as the workers maintained they will not be intimidated after 409 colleagues were dismissed.

They vowed to continue with the strike until their demands are met.  

Kenya National Union of Nurses Taita Taveta county branch secretary Reuben Matolo said the sacking of health workers was illegal and sheer violation of their rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

Elsewhere, Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong has directed the Finance docket not to release salaries for striking workers for the period they have been off duty.  

In Nakuru, services continued seamlessly, with residents saying it was a relief to have the healthcare workers back.    

Reporting by Harrison Kivisu, Henry Andanje, Noven Owiti, Roy Lumbe and Ruben Mwambingu. 

More on News