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Anguish, pain as nurses' strike hits patients hard

By Luke Anami and Roselyne Obala | Published Thu, June 15th 2017 at 00:18, Updated June 15th 2017 at 00:21 GMT +3
Nurses demonstrate outside Coast General Hospital. (Photo: Gideon Maundu, Standard)

Joseph Ondimu has been seeking dialysis services at the Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital (KTRH) but since the nurses went on strike, he has had to travel more than 200km to Eldoret town.

A resident of Nyamache in Kisii County, Mr Ondimu goes to Eldoret three times a week for dialysis. Each dialysis session costs him more than Sh15,000.

The 72-year-old is among hundreds of patients that are digging deep into their pockets as the countrywide nurses' strike continues to bite.

And he is among the many kidney patients making long trips for dialysis every week, incurring travel expenses that can be avoided.

At KTRH, he spent less than Sh6,000 per session.

In another case, Josephine Kemunto, a mother of three, has been going to Oresi Hospital in Kisii town for antenatal care. But with the strike, she has opted for a private clinic in the town, where she is now parting with Sh800 per visit.

Ms Kemunto says she developed complications in the third month of her pregnancy and has been going to KTRH for medical care.

"I cannot trust the student interns working at the hospital. I had created a bond with the nurses who attended to me during my first visit. It is unfortunate that I had to change hospitals," says Kemunto.

The referral hospital handles 20 births daily and at least five deliveries are through Cesarean section.

Polycarp Mokaya was involved in a road accident a month ago and was admitted at KTRH with a broken leg until the nurses went on strike.

He chose to move to a private hospital in Kisii town but all the beds were occupied, leaving him with the option to rest at home.

He now fears that his leg might take longer to heal.

"The pain is too much. I am spending a lot of money on taxis almost daily to go to private hospitals," he says.

These cases paint a picture of the misery and agony many patients have been subjected to as the impasse between the nurses, Ministry of Health and county governments continues.

Nurses have vowed not to return to work until the disputed collective bargaining agreement (CBA), whose details have emerged, is signed.

This means Kenyans will have to continue doing without the services of 26,000 nurses countrywide until the matter is resolved.

The strike is now in its second week.

Top on the list of nurses' demands, in the yet to be signed CBA, are salaries to be paid to them.

"Nurses are asking for an impractical uniform allowance of Sh40,000 for each of the 25,000 unionsable employees, which would translate to Sh1 billion in a year," said Sarah Serem, the chairperson of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).

She argued that the cost of implementing this alone would amount to Sh13 billion in four years, a burden that would have to be borne by 'Wanjiku', or the common citizen.

"The additional cost of the review of the extraneous allowance will lead to approximately an additional cost of Sh1.4 billion per annum. Risk allowance will lead to approximately Sh3.3 billion," said Ms Serem.

Already, Council of Governors chairman Josphat Nanok has accused Parliament of denying the counties funds.

Mr Nanok said the SRC proposals that the National Assembly ignored included allocations for the negotiated allowances for doctors, nurses, clinical officers and health professionals amounting to Sh12.3 billion.

"This amount has not been factored in the ongoing CBA negotiations for nurses. The National Assembly figures do not factor in the job evaluation exercise done by SRC, which has huge financial implications on the counties," he said.

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