Health care workers demonstrating along Nairobi streets over poor working conditions. [File, Standard]

Healthcare workers employed on contract under the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) have escalated their grievances to President Uhuru Kenyatta. 

The workers, who range from clinical officers to occupational therapists, have petitioned the President to have them employed on permanent and pensionable terms. 

In the petition copied to Council of Governors, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and Public Service Commission, the healthcare workers want the government through these agencies to actualise the chorused plan of employing them on permanent and pensionable terms.

"Your excellency we would like to bring to your attention that the majority of UHC workers have been facing several challenges in silence which include delays in receiving their salaries even some going for over eight months unpaid," reads the petition.

The petition notes that some of their colleagues have died without having received these benefits. 

"We have always been channelling our complaints individually to the Ministry and in such times of lockdown, we face some challenges to travel to Nairobi to address our issues at Afya House. More so, we have never complained about this," the petition adds. 

The workers note that it is a year since the Public Service Commission deployed them to the counties through the Ministry of Health and this promise of employing them has not been actualised.


President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been asked to address the plight of contracted UHC workers. [File, Standard]

When UHC was rolled out in December 2018, the plan also involved getting more workers into the counties as there was the expectation of an increase in the demand for health services. 

UHC which was rolled out as a pilot was then unceremoniously stopped sometime early last year at different intervals across the four counties of Nyeri, Kisumu, Isiolo, and Machakos. 

However, the workers were distributed across the 47 counties as the government's initial plan was to roll out UHC in the country shortly thereafter, though in phases. 

By December last year, data from the Ministry showed 9,885 health workers who include: 118 medical officers, and 47 pharmacists employed by PSC, through the Ministry of Health in partnership with the county government. They were on a three-year contract. 

Employment of these workers, who do include doctors, was one of the medics' demands during their strike, which started December 7, 2020, last year and lasted for several weeks. 

However, while the doctors have their issues granted, which informed December 24, 2020, Return to Work Formula; nurses, clinical officers, and other cadres, including nutritionists, were left in limbo. 

They were later forced to call off their strike in late January this year after an unresponsive government and a battery of orders from the Employments and Labour court without a Return to Work Formula.

Some nurses and clinical officers negotiated their Return to Work Officers with the counties as there seemed to be no headway nationally. 

This explains why the President's petition does not have doctors included. 

The petition lists the following cadres: registered clinical officers III, registered nurse III, pharmaceutical technologists III, Community oral health officers III, community health extension workers III, radiographers III, assistant public health officers III, enrolled nurses III, and medical laboratory technologists III.

Others are: nutritionists III, health records III, physiotherapists III, assistant health promotion officers III, orthopaedic and trauma technologists III, and occupational therapists III

During the height of the second wave of the pandemic last year heading to December, the Ministry of Health caved after threats of strike and started releasing the UHC workers' salaries.

The petition describes the health workforce as a core component to achieving UHC. 

"Further the Vision 2030 aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrialised middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all citizens (by 2030) and therefore UHC is vital for all these to be achieved," the petition reads. 

It adds: "Your excellency we promise to remain patriotic and serve Kenyans as per our call and also hopeful that you will consider our humble request."

Universal Healthcare Coverage;Ministry of Health;Council of Governors;Public Service Commission