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MPs want governors to be stripped of health duties

 Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna speaks during the joint sitting of the National Assembly and Health Committee. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Parliament is now considering reverting healthcare services to the national government following what they termed as contempt from the Council of Governors (CoG) in ending the health workers' strike.

This emerged on Friday after the CoG snubbed a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Health Committee.

The committee had also invited Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) Susan Nakhumicha, Treasury CS Njuguna Ndungu, Labour CS Florence Bore, SRC chairperson Lynn Mengich, Public Service Commission chair Anthony Mwaniki, and striking union officials to find a solution to the health workers' strike.

The strike, which enters day 46 today, includes workers from the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO) and the Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO).

All invited parties, except the CoG, sent representation to the meeting. However, the Cabinet Secretaries wrote to the committee stating that they were engaged elsewhere.

The committee co-chaired by Endebess MP Robert Pukose and Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago censured CoG for failing to appear, given that Health is a devolved function, and blamed governors for the deaths that have been witnessed across the country.

“These officials who are not honouring meetings are the cause of the death of these Kenyans. If these Kenyans were dying as a result of fire or floods they would all flock to the scene to be seen but now that Kenyans who lack medical care are dying in their houses, they choose not to appear before this committee so we can find a lasting solution,” said Seme MP James Nyikal.

“If we were to reach a decision, they were the ones to effect the resolutions but they are not here. The strike affects their services more than any other party but they did not appear. The country must hold them accountable for that,” he added.

Reuben Kiborek called for the reverting of Health services back to the national government, noting that it would be easier to deal with a single entity that is the Health CS, after it emerged that this was the third time the CoG had snubbed the committee’s invitation.

“It is time we make a painful decision to starve these governors of the budget or we can make an emotive decision to return the Health docket back to the National Government in as much as we devolved it for prosperity,” said Kiborek.

Edwin Sifuna warned that the Senate would withdraw support from county governments in the row between the counties and the National Treasury over the Division of Revenue.

For the 2024/2025 financial year, the Treasury has allocated County Governments Sh391.1 billion, but CoG has since rejected this noting that devolved units will face challenges in the delivery of their functions if the Bill is passed as is. They are pushing for the minimum allocation to be enhanced to Sh439.5 billion.

The proposals come after a revelation that counties have begun firing health workers participating in the strike and have threatened to stop remitting their dues to unions.

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