Clinical officers threaten to sue Kihika for terminating contracts

Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO) Chair Peterson Wachira (center) flanked by other health officials singing solidarity song in Nakuru on July 5,2023 after talks with them and the Nakuru county government failed over the issue of health workers employment in the county. [Yvonne Chepkwony, Standard]

Health officers have threatened to sue Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika if she does not reinstate health officers whose contracts expired last month. 

Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO) chairperson Peterson Wachira said they want the contracts of those who left renewed because those who replaced them are inexperienced and unable to offer services to patients.

The union has given Ms Kihika a week to renew the contracts or face legal action.

The ultimatum came amid claims of negligence and poor services in public health facilities at Molo and Elburgon sub-county hospitals.

Mr Wachira accused the county government of failing to follow the law when recruiting new health workers.

The official spoke at Nakuru Level Five Hospital where they had sought audience with the management. “We have visited the hospital’s outpatient, and I can tell the situation is chaotic because the clinical officers who previously worked at the facility were terminated. Those hired now are inexperienced. They cannot manage and this is disadvantaging patients,” said Wachira.

Nakuru Level Five Hospital declined to renew short-term contracts for 589 health workers and instead recruited another group.

County director of communication Bernard Namunane said on Wednesday he was unable to respond to the matter and referred The Standard to acting County Secretary Samuel Mwaura and CEC for health Jackline Osoro, who did not answer phone calls or respond to text messages.

Most health technicians and clerical officers at the county’s health facilities have been serving renewable short-term contracts of between three and six months.

Recently, the county government decided not to renew the contracts of more than 500 health workers to evaluate their performance, check documentation and harmonise salaries.

But it has emerged that the county government entered into new contracts with another set of workers, who began work on July 1, allegedly without advertising the positions.

"The challenges facing contracted workers cut across all cadres. This has inconvenienced workers so much. We supported the governor when she said she wanted to harmonise terms of employment and that all health workers would be hired on permanent and pensionable terms. However, we are surprised at how fast things have changed. Instead, the health workers are being replaced,” Wachira said.

He dismissed the claim that the governor is trying to streamline the health docket saying; "If that is the case, why did she go ahead to employ workers without advertising the positions as required by law?"

Wachara blamed the stalemate on alleged interference. Only 88 nurses and one pharmacy officer were retained from the previous lot.

Wachira accused the county government of discriminating against some health officers even as shortage persists.

"This trend where health workers are employed on contract will eventually plunge the county's health sector into a major crisis. No specialist will be willing to get into that kind of arrangement," said Wachira.

Ms Rose Masta, from the nurses union in Nakuru, lamented that Nakuru Level Five Hospital has lost many skilled personnel, which is compromising services.

"Let us not be selfish. Instead of appreciating nurses for the work they have done, including fighting Covid-19, we are terminating them. This has pushed a number of them into depression," said Masta.