Nurses Strike: Massive discharge leaves patients in pain

Nairobi county nurses protest over their pay rise outside the office of the Nairobi Governor. [David Gichuru/Standard]
Patients across the country continued to bear the brunt of a strike by nurses that entered its second day yesterday.

In Kisumu County, the two public referral hospitals discharged patients due to the absence of nurses.

Doctors at the main theatres at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) and the Kisumu County Hospital said they were only attending to emergencies as they could not work without nurses.

A spot check at the two hospitals showed that most of the wards were empty.

SEE ALSO :Medics’ strikes led to deaths, survey shows

At the JOOTRH maternity ward, two nurses and interns were helping deliver babies.

“There is no one to provide hands-on care to patients by administering medication, observing and monitoring patients' conditions,” said a surgeon.

The medic said the facility was only admitting life-threatening conditions.

County Executive Member for Health Rosemary Obara described the strike as unfortunate.

She said there had been numerous discussions with the union leaders and claimed that the nurses' allowances had been factored in budgetary allocations.

Dr Obara said the administration was waiting for an advisory through the Council of Governors in order to pay the allowances.

In Kakamega County, nurses vowed to join their colleagues if their demands were not met by February 28.

Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) County Secretary Renson Bulunya said the health workers would keep away from hospitals at the end of the month if Governor Wycliffe Oparanya failed to honour a promise to pay their dues.

“We have advised our members to remain patient until February 28, when Oparanya pledged to implement the pay, failing which the nurses will go ahead to paralyse services in hospitals in the county,” said Mr Bulunya.

Addressing journalists in Kakamega town yesterday, the union official said they had decided to engage the county government on the issue before making a final decision.

Speaking separately, Mr Oparanya said governors wished to see a lasting solution to the perennial nurses' strikes.

“We don’t want to a repeat of what we saw last year. Innocent Kenyans were subjected to endless suffering when nurses downed tools,” Oparanya told The Standard.

At least eight counties have yet to reach an agreement with the nurses even as their umbrella union vowed not to engage the Government in talks. Knun said by yesterday evening, the strike was still on in West Pokot, Kisumu, Kisii, Nairobi, Taita Taveta, Trans Nzoia, Elgeyo Marakwet and Wajir.

Two more counties, Marsabit and Homa Bay, will join the strike starting today, said Knun General Secretary Seth Panyako.

In Nairobi, the union branch officials were yesterday evening holed up in a meeting with the county management in a bid to end the strike.

The county government had earlier in a letter dated January 22, 2019, committed to pay the nurses their allowances as awarded in November 2, 2017, arguing that the administration was waiting for an update in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Database (IPPD) system before effecting the pay.

Apart from the Sh10,000 increment in nursing service allowance and Sh15,000 uniform allowance, both split in three phases, nurses in Nairobi are also demanding re-designation for the nurses who have gone back to school and promotions.

In Taita Taveta County, the fate of striking nurses will be known today when the county executive meets to decide on the next course of action.

Operations in all public health hospitals in the region remained grounded after 380 nurses went on strike on Monday. Yesterday, County Public Service Board Chairman Tangai Ngoma had a meeting with Governor Granton Samboja.

Earlier, Health Executive Daniel Makoko had warned the health workers that those who failed to resume work would be sacked.

Industrial action

But Knun Branch Chairman Bonface Mrashui dared the county administration to sack the striking workers, saying they had resorted to industrial action to fight for their rights.

The county is among 11 others that had not paid nurses their allowances as earlier agreed.

In Nyeri, Knun Branch Secretary Beatrice Nduati said the nurses were still on strike and demanded that the county government meet their demands.

Ms Nduati said the nurses wanted their payment of the Sh3,000 nursing service allowance that should have been effected in July 2018 and Sh15,000 uniform allowance.

In West Pokot County, nurses said they would not resume work until their demands were met. Knun Branch Chairman Noel Longronyang said the county government had not implemented the return-to-work formula as agreed.

In Nyandarua County, nurses called off their strike after signing a return-to-work formula with the county government on how to implement an earlier CBA.

Knun Nyandarua Branch Secretary John Gachara announced that the over 400 nurses would resume work.

In Kitui, over 700 nurses suspended their strike after the county government obtained restraining orders from the industrial court in Nairobi.

Newton Kimanthi, the secretary general of Knun Kitui chapter, yesterday said the union had a commitment letter from Governor Charity Ngilu indicating that the county government had the funds to pay the nurses their allowances but lacked express authority from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to pay.

[Report by Graham Kajilwa, Mactilda Mbenywe, John Shilitsa, Renson Mnyamwezi, Lydia Nyawira, Irissheel Shanzu, James Munyeki and Philip Muasya]

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