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Sacking health workers on strike is insensitive, says House team

By | March 10th 2012

By Mutinda Mwanzia

The Parliamentary Committee on Health has faulted the Government’s decision to sack striking health workers, saying it will affect service delivery.

Committee chairman Robert Monda said the Government must put its priorities right, adding that the standoff will lead to loss of lives and unwarranted suffering by innocent and poor Kenyans.

"The strike will not affect the rich since they have money to go to private hospitals and that’s why we call for dialogue among all those concerned," said Dr Monda.

He said the announcements by Minister for Medical Services Anyang’ Nyong’o and Government spokesman Alfred Mutua that the 25,000 health workers had been sacked was untenable.

"The decision to sack and replace the health workers amounts to the highest level of insensitivity and recklessness," said Monda.

He said the strike will paralyse the health sector.

Friday, Monda who addressed a news conference at Parliament Buildings flanked by Nyando MP Fred Outa said replacing the sacked health workers with retirees and interns was unworkable.

Prof Nyong’o on Thursday said the sacked workers would be required to re-apply if they are to be considered for reappointment.

Termination letters for those who had failed to report on duty for the past three days were already being dispatched, said Nyong’o.

The health workers went on strike on March 1 to protest the Government’s failure to implement a salary increase agreed last year.

They also stopped work to press for improved services in the ill-equipped public hospitals.

Mutua said the names of the 25,000 nurses who are on strike have been removed from the pay roll.

The strike has already crippled public hospitals, with patients sometimes being sent home untreated, with deaths also being reported.

Outa demanded the Government release the figures of those who have died.

Anti-Nyong’o slogans

"Someone has to be held responsible for the mess," he said.

He said the country had a shortfall of health professionals, adding that the sacking of those on strike will accelerate the problems bedeviling the sector.

On Friday the health workers marched through the streets of Nairobi chanting anti-Nyong’o slogans.

They asked Prime Minister Raila Odinga to sack Nyong’o due to his alleged arrogance and aloofness towards the striking workers.

The striking health staff brought business to a near-standstill in the city’s Central Business District (CBD) as they marched from Afya House through Uhuru Park to the CBD.

Fida-Kenya said there was need for immediate Government reinstatement and negotiation with the striking workers.

Executive Secretary Grace Maingi-Kimani said the strike by the workers was about their continued frustration and deplorable state of the health facilities.

She said the Government has failed to handle the strike with the expediency and care it deserves.

"The sacking of the workers is a careless and knee-jerk reaction that will fail to solve the problem at hand and will only prolong the suffering of Kenyans," said Kimani. She said the planned replacement of the sacked workers was not workable.

Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli termed the sackings as illegal and criminal.

Mr Atwoli urged the union representing the workers to move to court, adding that the Constitution does not allow the sacking of striking workers. He said Nyong’o should extend an olive branch to the health staff on strike and seal a deal.

Atwoli said Labour Minister John Munyes has been reluctant to deal with matters of industrial relations.

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