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Union withdraws nurses from Port Victoria hospital in protest

 KNUN Secretary General Seth Panyako. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The Kenya National Union of Nurses has withdrawn nurses and suspended operations at Port Victoria Level Four Hospital in Budalang'i, Busia county after healthcare workers on duty were assaulted.

A viral video clip captured an unidentified woman and man harassing hospital staff on duty while demanding that she attend to their patient with breathing complications, despite a long queue of patients at the facility on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, while at Nangina Mission Hospital in Funyula constituency in the company of Health CS Susan Nakhumicha, KNUN Secretary General Seth Panyako said they have withdrawn staff at Port Victoria Hospital until the culprits are arrested and prosecuted.

He said the government must guarantee the safety of healthcare workers and provide a conducive working environment.

The union's move could potentially paralyze medical services at the facility in the coming weeks, to the detriment of residents seeking treatment.

“There is no healthcare worker in the country who goes to work to either mistreat, hinder, or refuse to offer services. We are trained to save lives, and we will not allow anyone to march to any health facility and mistreat, assault, and insult our healthcare workers, be it a son of the President, Minister, Governor, or any other leader.

"We have the capability to use any means to stop our nurses from mistreatment, assault, and insults,” said Panyako.

He added, “We undergo training to treat and help our people, to save their lives. We do not undergo training to harm our people because we are always in the hospitals to serve them."

Panyako gave the security agencies a 48-hour ultimatum to apprehend the culprits before the union could advise the withdrawn staff to resume work at the facility.

“We have already withdrawn all our nurses at Port Victoria Hospital, and no services are currently going on at that facility.

"We are not offering any services at the hospital, and if the government fails to arrest the suspects, we are going to withdraw all our nurses in the entire Busia County and paralyse health services,” said Panyako.

“If the security agencies do not arrest the suspects within the specified time and if nothing is done by the county government of Busia, we shall call for a national nurses strike in solidarity with our colleagues.

"We cannot invest so much in the health sector as a country, only for a few individuals to resort to destroying what we have achieved over the years,” said Panyako.

He urged the government to transfer the training of theatre technicians from the TVET to the Nursing Council of Kenya to uphold the integrity and standards of the healthcare system in Kenya.

The woman captured in the viral video harassing a nurse has only been identified as Vanessa and is said to be a theatre technician trainee at one of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions.

CS Nakhumicha, while on a tour of Busia county to assess the progress of the Universal Health Coverage Programme, said nurses and healthcare workers are the pillars of the health system.

She urged the relevant arms of government to act swiftly and arrest the perpetrators.

“I am not going to allow our healthcare workers to be harassed; they must be protected. I am urging my colleague, the CS for Interior, to move swiftly and ensure the suspects are arrested and charged,” said Nakhumicha.

Busia Deputy Governor, also the CECM for Health Services in Busia County, Dr. Arthur Odera, said they have identified the video and verified that it was taken from the hospital. Relevant authorities are currently taking action.

“We are working with the police to arrest and arraign the suspect in a court of law because there is a way for filing complaints. Additionally, we will be looking into the matter to see whether there was a lapse on the side of the hospital management," said Odera.

“We have since identified that the suspects destroyed public properties and caused disorder. We are treating it as a breach of the law. I want to assure our healthcare workers that the county government is going to protect them,” he added. 

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