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Doctors union digs in as new St Mary’s Mission Hospital team lays tough rules

By NANJINIA WAMUSWA | Sat,Dec 30 2017 00:00:00 EAT

 Patients being attended at St Mary's Mission Hospital. The hospital is under new management. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Staff at the St Mary’s Mission Hospital in Lang’ata, Nairobi, will have to commit themselves in writing following a hostile takeover on Thursday.

Although the new Chief Executive Officer Gabriel Njue welcomed the old staff who chose to remain, the incoming administrative manager Maurice Audi said they will have to write letters of commitment.

“This letter is not for employment, but something to show they are committed and will not create trouble in future once they settle down to work,” he explained. 

And the controversy has sucked in the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), which termed the new management selfish and arrogant.

“I have met doctors, nurses and other staff members who were injured in the take over. They should have done it in a humane manner,” said KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga.

When Dr Oluga inquired about the fate of staff on contracts, Audi said they did not send away any worker, but they decided to quit.

“We wanted to sit down with them and agree on the way forward but they declined. We could not force them,” he said, adding that those who abscond duty will not be compensated.

The union insisted that the new staff must be qualified. 

“We do not know the qualifications of the new staff, if they are crooks we cannot tell,” Oluga said.

But Audi said the union was free to scrutinise the workers’ professional background.

The controversy deepened after the new management accused the old staff of stealing some critical equipment, including an ultrasound machine worth about Sh5 million.

“We are not offering imaging services, scans, X-Ray and ultra sound services. We have been turning away patients due to lack of these machines. It is unfortunate because the machine serves hundreds of patients,” Audi said.

He claimed that some doctors also took away patient notes and some files, and vandalised theatre lights, oxygen machine and punctured the pipe supplying water to the theatre.

“We are stranded with some of the patients. If you take away their files and notes, it means you want them to die.”

But outgoing Managing Director, Bryann Nyangeri denied the claims, saying the police barred them from accessing the hospital and there is no way anyone would have taken the equipment.

“I do not think anyone would have managed to enter and take machines out of any office in the presence of heavy security at that moment,” he said.

Yesterday, there were no long queues of patients at the hospital. From the waiting area, to the wards, consultation rooms and pharmacy, only a handful of patients were available.

“I brought my child for treatment last week and was told to return yesterday. But yesterday, there was a lot of confusion and we had to go without seeing any doctor,” said Agnes Mwaniki who travelled from Rongai.

Dr Nyangeri said the facility was seeing between 1,000 and 1,200 patients a day, and during the doctors’ strike the numbers rose to more than 2,000 a day.

Oluga raised fears that the new management might run down the facility.

“I think the new management will mess up the facility that is at the heart of many Kenyans,” he said, adding that they might be forced to close it down till all the issues are settled.”

But the new CEO downplayed the fears, saying the new team had seen about 500 patients by yesterday evening. “The new management is already settled and working smoothly. The services are going on well, and patients in the wards are being taken care of very well,” he said. Dr Njue assured patients of efficient services at the hospital.

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