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Kenya National Union of Nurses Secretary General Seth Panyako (right) with the Union chairman John Bii during a press briefing in Kisumu on November 12 2016. The union issued a 21 days strike if the CBA is not signed by the government. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The nurses union main offices in Nairobi have been closed.

On Tuesday, Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) secretariat released a notice informing its members that its offices located at Nairobi’s Uchumi house have been closed.

“This is to inform all members and partners of Knun that the union offices (headquarters) will remain closed beginning February 18, 2020, until further notice due to security reasons...” read part of the notice.

Knun has been torn apart by supremacy battles between two factions, one led by national Chairman John Bii and the other by Secretary-General Seth Panyako.

Two weeks ago, the factions clashed after details of a strike notice asking nurses to stay away from work beginning March 2 leaked. 

Mr Bii blamed Mr Panyako for penning the notice, which he said was in bad taste.

Bii said it was distasteful for anyone to think of a strike at a time the country was mourning former President Daniel arap Moi.

“Coming at a time when we have lost Mzee Moi and 14 school children have died in Kakamega, it would be outrageous for anyone to think of calling a strike,” said Bii.

National Nurses Association of Kenya (NNAK) official Alfred Obengo also said the strike notice was ill-conceived.

“As much as the constitution guarantees the right to industrial action, the notice is ill-advised. You cannot take soldiers to war without adequate preparedness. We shall ignore the strike notice,” asserted Mr Obengo.

But Panyako has denied issuing any strike notice. He said the leaked document was a creation of his opponents who want to make him look insensitive before the public.

“They generated the letter so that they can make money because they thrive in industrial action,” said Panyako.

Bii alleged attempts to change the union’s constitution to create a powerful secretary-general.

“The secretary-general knows that his days are numbered and that is why he is trying to divert attention through a strike that we cannot allow,” Bii averred.

Bii and Panyako have been at loggerheads since the long-running nurses strike of 2016, which almost crippled the health sector.

Attempts to oust Bii have been thwarted by the courts.

Sources within the union said the vicious battle has been spurred by attempts to control a health insurance scheme for nurses.

Bii, in a letter sent to the Council of Governors (CoG) on December 21, 2019, rejected the scheme, which he said “is shrouded in mystery”.

Bii alleges that the scheme is to be run by a company called Caremark Foundation Ltd.

“Knun members do not know of any company called Caremark,” Bii said.

“The clandestine registration of a private firm by individuals led by the secretary-general, and the signing of an agreement thereafter without the members’ knowledge using the union’s name is, by all means, one of the greatest scandals perpetrated in recent times in the nursing fraternity,” Bii’s letter stressed.

In another letter to CoG dated December 19, 2019, this time penned by Panyako, the secretary-general asserts that Caremark are the legal guardians of the nurses’ scheme.

The letter quotes the Health Amendment Act, 2019 that came into force in May last year, which states that every nurse shall in each year take a professional indemnity cover and every health institution shall in each year insure the health institution against professional liability of its staff.

The letter reads: “All deductions should be channeled through the Caremark Foundation, which is the official agent of AAR insurance company with effect from January 2020.”

Knun Seth Panyako Nurses union
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