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Crisis deepens as support staff join nurses' strike in Meru

COUNTIES
By Phares Mutembei and Kamau Munene | September 5th 2015

Meru, Kenya: A section of support staff at the Meru Level 5 Hospital are on a go-slow over poor pay and in solidarity with the ongoing nurses' strike.

Yesterday, the hospital remained deserted, save for the striking workers who gathered in the hospital’s compound to demonstrate to Governor Peter Munya’s offices.

Many patients have checked out to seek treatment in mission hospitals.

But a planned demonstration was canceled after the nurses encountered a road block along the road leading to the hospital.

“We have to cancel the demonstration, because of presence of too many people on the route,” said Mr Nesbitt Mugendi, the secretary of the Kenya Union of Nurses (Meru branch).

The chair Mugambi Bakari, said about 1,000 nurses, clinical officers, physiotherapists and others, are on strike over poor pay and lack of risk and extraneous allowances, among other grievances.

“More than 170 ESP nurses have been in probation for four years, yet it’s supposed to be for a year only,” he said.

“We congratulate the county government for hiring more health staff, but they have to pay them well, too,” said Bakari.

He said the country needs a health service commission to address issues of standards, remuneration and others.

Meanwhile, the nurses and medics strike in Kirinyaga County has entered its fifth day with provision of health services in the area grinding to a halt.

The striking staff yesterday held peaceful demonstration in Kerugoya town but their attempts to storm the County Assembly hit a snag.
Led by their spokesperson Stephen Njeru, the medics claimed that both the assembly and the area county government had kept mum over their plight as residents continued to suffer.

"If our plight is addressed right here and now, we will certainly resume duties to avoid more suffering,’’ Njeru said.

They claimed they had not been paid their allowances since devolution came into effect while those due for promotion were in the dark.
Many residents seeking medical care have opted to seek services in private facilities or mission hospitals.

The private facilities on the other hand have reported being overwhelmed by the high number of patients seeking medical services.
‘’Our wards are full to capacity, the outpatient is overcrowded while our staffers are overworked since we are not sending any one away,’’ said an employee at the Kirinyaga Nursing Home, Jane Waithera.

Ms Waithera said the same situation prevailed in other private facilities in the county especially at Karira Mission Hospital, Mwea, two other nursing homes in Ngurubani market and another at Kagio market.

Yesterday, no official from either the assembly or the county government was available for comment, while the nurses vowed to stay put until their demands were met.

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