Tharaka Nithi nurses down tools for the fourteenth time

Kenya National Union of Nurses Tharaka Nithi Secretary Kenneth Micheni addressing Journalists at Chuka Refferal Hospital. He said all health workers should boycott duty until they receive official communication from the union. [PHOTO: KEVIN NGAI/STANDARD]

Health services have been paralysed in major public hospital's in Tharaka-Nithi as nurses down their tools for the fourteenth time, citing reluctance by the county government to address their grievances.

Speaking to the Standard, Kenya National Union of Nurses branch secretary Kenneth Micheni said the nurses have been demanding for promotions, salary increment, remittance of statutory deductions and improvement of working conditions, since health was devolved in 2013 without yielding any fruit's.

The nurses first went on strike on December 2014.

He said health workers have been lenient and extended their previous notices of strike to give room for dialogue but the county government has been playing games with the matter issuing promises that are never met, adding that "this time round will be the mother of all strikes."

"The county government has a tendency of waiting until we go on strike when they appear to show commitment of addressing our concerns yet they don't meet their promises, they just carry us like small kids,"

“We are fed up with empty promises and we are ready to remain away from hospitals until all our grievances are fully addressed,” he added.

Knun branch chairman Fabian Marigu said about 133 health workers, who have been accused of being ghost workers have been scraped from the payroll yet they worked for national government for more than 10 year's.

He said for three months now the employer has not remitted deductions to the National Hospital Insurance Fund, bank loans and Higher Education Loans Board funds.

Early last month Governor Samuel Ragwa announced to have scrapped a total of 300 ghost workers from the county payroll.

"Someone has been working for the National government for ten years but when he comes to work in Tharaka Nithi he is termed as a ghost worker," Mr Marigu said.

The union also claims that some nurses have been transferred unlawfully.

He added that the government should promptly remit statutory deductions such the National Health Insurance Funds fees and loan deductions to avoid penalties.

Efforts to reach the Executive in-charge of health were futile, but two weeks ago, Chief Officer of health Walter Mugambi, said the National government had agreed to take the backlog of promoting workers who were absorbed by the county government in 2013.

He said county government alone has promoted 84 health workers since it took office in 2013.

"The central government has agreed to take the backlog and has set aside sh 17.8 million for promoting health workers who joined the county in 2013," he said.