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Hopelessness as nurses keep off public hospitals in Kenya

 A patient in the orthopedic ward at the Coast General Hospital in Mombasa County. He had not been attended to due to the nurses and doctors’ strike. PHOTO: MAARUFU MOHAMED

No services were offered in most public hospitals yesterday even after nurses announced suspension of their week-long strike.

There were no activities as the hospitals remained deserted, with some union officials blaming it on the national government.

However, the emergency section of Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) had close to normal activities courtesy of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) doctors and a handful of nurses.

This came as the 290 consultants and nurses at the hospital were expected to join the strike today.

However, chief executive officer Lily Koros has warned staff at KNH, in a memo dated December 3, against joining the strike lest they be met with ‘swift, firm and decisive action’.


Guards at hospitals visited yesterday turned away those seeking medical attention. Security officers at Mbagathi and Mama Lucy hospitals told patients there were no nurses or doctors to attend to them.

A Standard writer, posing as a patient, was denied entry into Mama Lucy. A guard insisted only staff with identification cards were allowed in.

“There is nothing going on here. No one has come to work. Even the nurses who were expected to resume work are not here. If you feel so bad, you should go to a private hospital,” a guard said.

A clinician at the hospital had also confirmed the same. “I brought my friend here thinking nurses will be around. I have been forced to examine her myself though I am also not working. Of course with the nurses and doctors on strike, no one else is reporting to work,” she said.


The same scenario was replicated at Mbagathi as stranded patients were seen pondering their next move. There was no one at the hospital’s registry and doors to outpatient clinics were closed.

“As at yesterday (Sunday), I knew the strike was over. But the guards are denying everyone entry. I missed my check-up last week for a respiratory condition due to the strike. I came today (yesterday) thinking services have resumed,” said Michelle Nambuyi. 

Health services are also yet to resume in Mombasa, Taita Taveta and Tana River counties, dampening hopes that the strike had been suspended following Sunday’s announcement.

Hola Referral hospital in Hola Town remained closed without patients or medical staff in sight. Nurses’ union officials said they can only call of the strike after instructions from the union headquarters in Nairobi.

Tana River Governor Hussein Dado, who spoke during Jamhuri Day celebrations in Hola Town, threatened to dismiss the striking workers if they do not report to work today.

Dado said he does not recognise the Collective Bargaining Agreement CBA whose non-implementation is the cause of the strike.

Hospitals in Mombasa were also shut with no activities reported at the Coast General Hospital, Tudor District Hospital, Port Reitz and Likoni District hospitals. There were no patients or medical staff as guards denied patients entry.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho accused the national government of orchestrating the strike by signing CBAs with doctors’ and nurses’ unions without any intending to honour them.

Joho exonerated governors from blame, saying: “The national government rushed negotiations and signed a suspect CBAs in 2013 and later dishonoured them. The national government is squarely to blame for the current quagmire signing the CBAs knowing very well health is a devolved function,” Joho said.

Taita-Taveta  Governor John Mruttu confirmed medical workers had not returned to work.

He said despite negotiations between the national and county government, Council of Governors and union officials, the health workers are still reluctant to resume duty.

The situation was the same in public hospitals across Nyanza region as health workers kept off.

A spot check in all the referral hospitals in the six counties in the region revealed medical services remained paralysed as offices and wards closed.

At Kisumu County Hospital, guards said they were under instructions not to allow anybody sick into the hospital as they would not be assisted. There were also no medics in sight in Kisii, Nyamira, Homa Bay and Siaya where public hospitals remained closed.

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