Kisumu county’s health sector remained in the intensive care unit as the doctors’ strike enters its second week with no solution in sight.
Attempts by Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o to whip the doctors back to work by threatening to withhold their December salaries backfired after the medics vowed to continue with the boycott that has paralysed public health services across the county.
The doctors’ strike that started last week came hot on the heels of a one-month strike by nurses and another one by clinical officers.
The nurses have returned to work but the doctors and clinical officers continue to boycott work over failure by the county government to implement a 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
The frequent strikes by the medical workers have put Prof Nyong’o in an embarrassing position given that health was top on his list of priorities when he took office in 2017.
When he took oath of office, Nyong’o, a former Minister for Medical Services, promised to bring sanity to the limping health sector.
This, however, remains a pipe dream as Nyong’o struggles to stop the turbulence, with residents now appealing to the national government to take back the health sector from counties.
From back-to-back strikes, lack of essential drugs to facilities built with millions of taxpayers money lying idle, Kisumu’s healthcare is in a sorry state.
The biting blood shortage in public hospitals has only worsened the situation.
A spot check by The Standard revealed that a number of public health facilities were deserted after patients were discharged last week as a result of the doctors’ strike.
Others have shunned the facilities over what they term as poor services and also as a result of lack of essential drugs, which Nyong’o’s administration is blaming on delays by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority.
“What is the essence of going to a public facility where you will only be met with closed gates and referred to buy drugs elsewhere, “said Joseph Asule, a patient at St Monica’s Hospital.
While Nyong’o claims that his administration has done its best to improve health services, various stakeholders claim his administration is failing patients across the county.
There are also claims that doctors are taking advantage of the strikes to promote their private clinics that have mushroomed across the county, a claim Nyong’o has also blamed for the persistent strikes.
Interviews with a number of health workers, Members of County Assembly and residents established that lack of a clear plan to guide the sector and claims of corruption have contributed to the woes facing the sector.
This even as Nyong’o pointed an accusing finger at the health workers for being “callous” and is also heaping blame of the dysfunctional health system on other State agencies and poor funding of the sector.
“The medical officers are not being honest. They swore an oath and it is disturbing to note that some of them are willing to let innocent people die because they have not received letters of promotion,” said Nyong’o.
He said the problem facing the health sector was a national problem affecting other counties and claimed that his administration has been lenient on health workers.
“We have already seen other governors cracking the whip on health workers but for us, we have been trying to negotiate with them,” said Nyong’o.
Yesterday, the chairman of Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union Nyanza branch Kevin Osuri said that the county government has been reluctant to implement a CBA they signed in 2017.
Nurses, too, have faulted the county government over its laxity to implement agreements made to improve their welfare.
The document has provisions for the promotion of doctors while the implementation of other CBAs signed with other categories of health workers have also been an issue.
Osuri said they have been trying to engage the county government over the implementation of the CBA to end strikes to no avail.
“This is the only county which has not promoted any doctor since devolution started while enslaving the few available ones,” said Osuri.
His comments were echoed by Kisumu Residents Voice Association chairman Audi Ogada who decried what he termed as pathetic state of healthcare.
“The county government should give health workers what they want because while they are playing politics, lives are being lost,” said Ogada.
Nyong’o’s administration is also under pressure to ensure equipment installed in various health facilities are functioning after it emerged that some are not being used.
They include a CT scan that has been lying idle for several months after it malfunctioned, forcing patients to seek the services at private facilities.
Yesterday, Nyong’o admitted that a number of patients had lost their lives due to stalled equipment and doctors’ strike.
“Recently, a woman died at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital because the CT scan was not working,” said Nyong’o.