More agony for unpaid medics as banks close in

KNUN General Secretary Seth Panyako when he joined nurses from Nakuru County for a demonstration in demand for the implementation of the CBA on February 18, 2019. [Wathari/Standard]

More than 350 nurses, clinicians and doctors have expressed their frustration with the county health department after their salaries started reducing before vanishing altogether.

The medics say their payslips have been indicating Sh00.00 salaries since April, with some reflecting negative balances.

Banks are now closing in on medics who had taken loans with them for failing to make monthly repayments.

A number of affected medics are now considering resigning, accusing Governor Wilber Ottichilo and the health department of ignoring their plight.

Basic salaries

The Standard has established that the anomaly started on April 29 when the medics received their payslips indicating that their basic salaries had been reduced by a half. Extraneous and house allowances were also not indicated.

At the end of the month, 70 nurses went to withdraw their salaries from their banks and found nil account balances.

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In May and June, the number rose to 350 with clinicians, doctors, and medics in senior management positions going to their banks to find zero-salary balances.

Even those lucky to get their salaries found that their statutory deductions including the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) had not been remitted.

Last month, all of the 1,120 health staff did not receive a single penny in salaries, joining the ranks of those whose payslips have been reading Sh00.00 since April.

“I raised the issue with the relevant department and was told to make a formal complaint. To date my problem has not been sorted,” said the nurse based at the Vihiga County Referral Hospital.

Like many others, the nurse has since defaulted on a number of loan repayments and faces a looming specter of an auction.

“I have received a notice from the Cooperative Bank that I risk having my property auctioned. Those who guaranteed the loan for me are also on my neck for putting their properties at risk of being auctioned,” said the nurse.

Others admitted that they are living in fear of being evicted by impatient landlords.

“I had to take an emergency loan a money lender to pay rent and buy food," said a nurse from Hamisi Sub-county whose payslip for May and June read Sh00.00.

Another doctor at the County Referral hospital has been receiving payslips indicating Sh0.00 as his salary for the last three months. He too is living in fear of auctioneers.

“Last week, the bank sent me auctioneers who threatened to auction my car and house to recover the money and yet it is not my fault,” he said.

He claimed that he was threatened with sacking when he raised the matter with the human resource office.

Many medics now say their children are dropping out of school over unpaid fees.

“My two daughters are back at home since I cannot pay for their tuition fee at KCA University. I now risk losing my only two acres of land if this problem is not sorted out,” she said.

Caleb Maloba, the Vihiga County branch secretary for the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) said the number of affected medics might be more than 350 saying some have not come out on the issue after they were threatened with sacking.

“We raised the issue with the payroll manager and the human resource office and were told it was a system error,” said Mr Maloba.

Reshuffled officers

According to the union, the problem started when the governor reshuffled officers at the payroll and human resource departments.

“Someone might be pocketing at least millions of shillings every month,” said KNUN Chairman, Zadock Miheso.

The governor's office blamed the problem on the government's payment system.

According to Governor's Communications Director Victor Wetende, the Integrated Payroll and Personal Database system erroneously calculated the affected medics' salaries.

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Wilber OttichiloUnpaid medicsBanksVihiga County