Patients’ agony as nurses push for implementation of deal

Joel Ocholla, a patient at Kisumu County hospital at his ward 5 bed on February 04,2019. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]
On bed 25, inside Ward Four at Kisumu County Hospital lies 69-year-old Joel Ochola.

He has been here since Wednesday last week and is expected to stay at the hospital for a few more weeks to stabilise after he had a surgery last Friday.

His son, Domnic Otieno, says Ochola had to be operated on after developing complications while passing urine.

He says his father has had the problem since March last year. He had been unable to pass urine normally.

SEE ALSO :Nurses vow to skip work

Doctors at Rabuor sub-county hospital in Nyando had inserted a catheter and Ochola was expected to visit the hospital regularly as the medics cleaned his system to prevent blockage.

However, two weeks ago, Ochola developed complications. The pipe could no longer pass urine. He was referred to the county hospital and was admitted on Wednesday.

A surgery to correct his condition was successful.

When The Standard visited the hospital yesterday, Ochola was worried that his problem could recur.

Without nurses

“This morning, we were told to prepare for discharge. They say we can no longer continue to stay here without nurses,” Otieno told The Standard.

By the time of going to press yesterday, Otieno had called his brother to prepare a tuk tuk to take his father back home. He said they had no money to go to another hospital.

At the hospital entrance was John Ondiek, 84. He had been turned away. He had gone to the facility for check up.

Mr Ondiek, who also has urinary track complications, said he was advised to visit another day as the nurses’ strike had paralysed activities at the hospital.

“I do not know which other day this will be. I needed critical care,” said Ondiek.

The story of the two men was replicated in many other local public hospitals, with both the outpatient and inpatient sections feeling the pinch.

In Kisii, more than 800 nurses downed their tools to push for implementation of the November 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Health facilities

Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) area secretary Moses Rianga said nurses in all public health facilities had resolved not to report to work until respective county governments implement the CBA.

Rianga said they had no option but to stop offering their services. However, he said they were ready to resume work if the Government honoured the CBA.

Branch chairman Fredrick Oigo called on patients to go to private hospitals until the county government pays nurses more salaries and allowances.

However, the county’s Health executive Sarah Omache said provision of health services had not been interrupted. She said nurses had ignored calls to participate in the strike.

“I have done a spot check in several health facilities across the county and I can satisfactorily say our people are receiving health services as usual. No one should fear seeking services in our hospitals,” said Ms Omache.

County Secretary Patrick Lumumba said it was wrong for nurses to fail to report to work when the national government had appointed a conciliation team led by Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani.

In Nyamira, Knun secretary Richard Oruta said they might go on strike starting March 4, unless the CBA was implemented.

“Nurses are alert. If the county government fails to pay our new salaries and allowances, then we will have no option but go on strike like our counterparts in other regions,” said Oruta.

Elsewhere in Taita-Taveta County, operations in public hospitals were grounded after 380 nurses went on strike to demand better terms and conditions of service.

Negotiations between the county administration and Knun hit a snag on Sunday.

On Sunday, the county administration and the union disagreed on the modalities of payment of the new allowances.

Knun branch chairman Bonface Mrashui said all the union members had been instructed not to report on duty after the county administration declined to pay them pending allowances.

“The executive has squandered the opportunity to resolve this matter. It has never been serious about ending the dispute. The government has been taking us in circles and we are tired. We will only go back to work after it pays our allowances dating back to July last year,” Mr Mrashui said.

Health executive Daniel Makoko told the striking health workers they risked being sacked.

He said the county administration had committed itself to paying the workers more than Sh8 million in pending allowances by Wednesday this week and accused the union of only focusing on the strike.

“We have held meetings with the union and promised to pay the allowances and arrears by Wednesday, but they have chosen to go on strike. We are currently carrying out a roll call on the workers and anyone who fails to report to work will be sacked,” said Mr Makoko.

Sources at a meeting held at the Voi County Referral Hospital yesterday said the union officials demanded that the allowances and arrears be paid in full, but the government wanted to pay half of it first. “We have told the executive enhanced nursing service allowances must be paid in full together with arrears or we will down tools,” another Knun official Hassan Halima said.

Taita-Taveta is among 11 counties that had not paid nurses their allowances as earlier agreed. The government had said the money was factored in the 2018/2019 budget.

In Nyeri, at least 850 nurses are today expected join their colleagues in the nationwide strike.

Area Knun secretary Beatrice Nduati said they had been waiting for the Sh3,000 nursing service allowance since July last year. She said their Sh15,000 uniform allowance had not been paid either.

[Story by Kevine Omollo, Edwin Nyarangi, Stanley Ongwae, Renson Mnyamwezi and Lydia Nyawira]

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