By Ally Jamah

Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o has assured health workers who received suspension letters upon returning to work after the strike that the letters would be withdrawn.

Speaking Tuesday afternoon after opening an East African Community meeting on health in Nairobi, the minister said the health workers should stop panicking and resume work.

"Those letters are not a big deal. They are just government procedure. We will soon withdraw them after consulting my ministry officials. There should be no reason for panic or alarm," Nyong’o said.

On Monday, there was apprehension after some health workers received suspension letters requiring them to explain within seven days why they "absconded duty and participated in an unlawful strike".

In the letter, the workers are required to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them, including being fired. Those who fail to respond within the seven days would be automatically sacked.

But Nyong’o said that in the spirit of goodwill, the letters would be withdrawn to allow negotiations between health workers and the Government to continue.

officials of the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) termed Nyong’o’s assurances as a public relations exercise, saying intimidation of health workers was still rife.

Knun Chair Jophinus Musundi said workers in Kiambu, Thika, and Murang’a have stayed away from their work stations to avoid receiving the suspension letters. Secretary General Seth Fanyako accompanied him.

Threats and transfers

He added that health workers are not entirely convinced by the measures put in place to prevent victimisation, saying some have received threats and transfers.

"The ministry officers on the ground are really harsh on health workers and do everything to intimidate them. Nyong’o should communicate with them first before rushing to the media," he said.

The union sought an order at the Industrial Court Tuesday barring any dismissal or intimidation of health workers, but the court rejected the request and fixed inter partes hearing on March 22. The union officials will serve the Attorney General, the respondent, with the order filed under a certificate of urgency, today (Wednesday).

On his part, Nyong’o said negotiations would yield fruit for the workers, saying a new package of allowances would be discussed and taken to the Treasury for implementation.

He gave no time frame for that.

In his speech to EAC representatives, Nyong’o said Kenya should allocate 15 per cent of its budget on health care as it had committed itself to the Abuja Declaration.

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