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No end in sight to patients’ pain as medics strike continue to bite

Monday, December 14th, 2020 00:00 |
Kenya Union of Clinical Officers and Kenya National Union of Nurses officials after addressing the press at Mbagathi Referral Hospital in Nairobi, last week. Photo/PD/ALEX MBURU

Kenyans seeking services in public hospitals should brace for tougher days after nurses and clinicians vowed to continue paralysing health services.

As the strike enters its second week, there is a dwindling hope for a return to normalcy in the health sector, even as the country battles to keep Covid-19 at bay.

With many remaining optimistic that the stalemate will wane to allow for negotiations, the industrial action has proved to be a threat to access Universal Health Coverage.

People Daily has established that the only healthcare practitioners at work in most public hospitals are students, newly employed staff on probation and nursing managers. 

In Nyamira, the  healthcare workers said no amount of threats and intimidation could deter or make them call off the strike. They said they were ready to resume duty if the county government implements their demands to the latter.

Addressing the press yesterday, the workers dared the county to effect threats to sack those still on strike, saying it was unfortunate that the devolved unit wanted to arm-twist them.

Clinician’s chairman Bonface Kegusu said they are demanding for provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), harmonisation of their risk allowances, prompt payment of their salaries and hiring of more staff.

On his part, county Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union chair Dr Lameck Omweri stated that the 62 doctors  will not resume duty until their demands have been fully addressed.

He accused the County Secretary James Ntabo and Health CEC Douglas Bosire of insincerity while addressing their concerns.

In Mombasa, health services in key public health centers continue to be derailed as residents continue to bear the brunt of lack of services.

At least 680 permanent and pensionable nurses and 168 clinical officers are on strike, ostensibly demanding an up-to-date remittance of statutory deductions by the county government.

According to Kenya Union of Clinical Officers secretary  Mombasa branch, Frankline Makanga, the Coast General Hospital is only left with nurses who are directly employed by the hospital on contracts and those under UHC.

Affected facilities include Portreiz Hospital in Changamwe, Tudor Sub-county, Likoni Health Centre, the Coast Teaching and Referral Hospital and Mla Leo Health Centre in Kisauni. 

A survey has established that the few working nurses had concentrated on the newborn delivery unit, Covid-19 isolation and the Intensive Care Unit, while other department’s services had been affected.

The medics have accused Governor Hassan Joho of ignoring their plight, and instead engaging in political campaigns in Msambweni at the expense of vulnerable patients who have continued to bear the brunt of prolonged medics strike.

Sorry to patients

“The county only remitted the July deductions and up to date it has failed to do so. They are so quiet and the governor is busy campaigning in Msambweni. We cannot continue to work without health insurance, especially during this Covid-19 period,” added Makanga.

 Makanga said clinical officers will not be reporting to work until their demands, among them salary delays; remittance of statutory deductions and the provision of PPEs is addressed.

In Kisii, Governor James Ongwae was making frantic efforts to end the strike by initiating talks with the National government to ease the suffering of patients in the county.

County Secretary, Patrick Lumumba said Ongwae, who is the Council of Governors Labour Committee chair wants issues raised by the medics unions addressed.

Speaking in Kisii yesterday, Lumumba said he felt for the patients and assured them the county government will handle the plight of the health workers. “I say sorry to patients. County officials are working hard to ensure healthcare workers resume work soon,” Lumumba said.

In Nakuru, the Kenya National Union of Nurses branch Secretary General Syprene Odera expressed dismay over the fulfilment of UHC, saying it is unrealisable if little issues like staff salaries take years to be addressed. Reporting by Evans Nyakundi, Harrison Kivisu, Robert Ochoro and Roy Lumbe

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