Nurses agree to settle contracts case against county government out of court

Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika before the Senate Committee on Public Investments and Special Funds Committee at KICC in Nairobi on July 4, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Nurses who sued the county government of Nakuru after it declined to renew their contracts have agreed to settle the dispute out of court.

The contracts of the health workers ended on June 30 but Governor Susan Kihika's administration declined to renew them prompting the nurses to sue the regional government.

On Thursday, July 6, 2023, the court heard that at least 21 of the 33 aggrieved nurses already had their contracts renewed.

The nurses moved to court last week challenging the county government's decision to release them. In the case, the nurses named the Chief Officer for medical services, Dr John Murima, as a respondent.

Other respondents were the Chief Officer for Public Health, the Director of Health, the Department of Health and the County Attorney General, as respondents.

The 21 nurses have already withdrawn their petition that was before Senior Resident Magistrate Lina Akoth following the renewal of their contracts. The rest have sought time to negotiate with the county government and settle the matter outside court.

Out-of-court negotiation

“We have decided to attempt an out-of-court negotiation,” said the nurses through John Muhia, who swore the affidavit on their behalf.

In their application, the nurses claimed they were employed by the health department in 2022 under three-year contracts subject to renewals.

They stated that they worked diligently and during the Covid-19 pandemic, risked lives and families, without any hardship allowances.

They claimed that after the August 2022 General Election, Ms Kihika promised to improve their welfare.

“The governor promised to promote nurses and convert those on contract to permanent and pensionable employment terms,” the nurses said.

They said they felt they were entitled to the terms and conditions of the Employment Act.

They claimed they had not gone on any leave and were not given their pay slips. They said that their attempts to retrieve the pay slips from the department proved futile.

They said after their contract expired on April 24, 2023, the county renewed them for three months but at the same time posted a letter to employ other nurses, contrary to a promise Kihika had made to them.

They said that when their contracts ended on June 30, 2023, they were released and the department is yet to make any communication about the 171 nurses.

Sole breadwinners

“Some of us are sole breadwinners in our families and if our contracts are terminated we will suffer irreparable harm,” they submitted.

They wanted a declaration that failure by the county government to renew their contracts was unlawful, urging the court to order that they be should be retained and or converted to permanent and pensionable terms of employment.

In response, Dr Murima said all nurses were subjected to performance appraisal that was used to retain some and release others.

He said that three of the complainants are not in the health department database and 21 have been retained.

“The claim by the nine cannot stand as they fail short of the performance appraisal. Political promises are irrelevant as they were not made by the appointing authority,” he said.

He stated that there is no legal obligation to renew a fixed-term contract nor explain reasons for failure to renew such.

Murima stated that the application had been overtaken by events as the recruitment process had ended.