Address root causes of nurses' strikes, not the symptoms

Unperturbed by the ongoing nurses’ strike, the government seems set to make a bad situation worse. Between them, the National and County governments are not giving the nurses’ strike the attention it deserves.

Rather than address the underlying reasons for the strike, the government finds solace in adopting strong arm tactics, seeking to coax nurses into abandoning their strike. Nurses' grievances are buttressed by the skewed use of resources.

For example, medical staff earn meagre pay- which often delays- while the hospitals run out of vital drugs for long periods or lack vital equipment, yet there is plenty of money to buy furniture for the governor’s office, to fuel the humongous SUV or to sponsor MCAs for benchmarking trips abroad.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s concern while ordering nurses back to work on Wednesday is understandable. Universal Health Care is important to him as it forms part of what he wants to be remembered for when he leaves office in 2022.

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The success of that programme depends on health workers giving their all towards its achievement. As matters stand today, the nurses’ strike is an impediment. The nurses’ union, reacting to the presidential order, said the strike will continue undeterred until their demands are met.

With more counties set to join the strike, and even if the government proceeds to sack the striking nurses, it will not have solved anything. The process of hiring new nurses would be prolonged and there is no guarantee the sacked nurses will not seek redress in court. That will be a time-consuming process while patients continue to suffer. Reason must prevail. Both parties should tone down and seek a middle ground.

As President Kenyatta noted, obeying the law is not optional and if, at a future date the nurses will require the intervention of the court, they must heed the order to suspend their strike for 60 days until their grievances are heard.

The existence of a CBA is not in doubt, but nurses, as they disagree with recommendations of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) must acknowledge the predicament SRC finds itself in; meeting their demands amid a runaway wage bill. Nurses have no reason to inflict pain and anguish on the patients. Agitation for a better pay and better working conditions is no excuse for loss of life and inflicting trauma. They ought to put the interest of their patients first. 

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County governmentsNationalNurses' grievancesNurses strikeKNUNSeth Panyako