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Patients in Kenya throng private hospitals for treatment as nurses' strike bites

By Dennis Mbae | August 19th 2015

The industrial action by nurses and other health workers, which started on Monday, has crippled the delivery of services in public health facilities, forcing hundreds of patients to throng private hospitals in search of treatment.

Some of the hospitals that were flocked by distressed patients included the Catholic-sponsored Consolata Mission Hospital in Mathari and Outspan Hospital.

"Since yesterday, we have received an overwhelming number of patients in our facility. We are doing everything we can to attend to them," Consolata Mission Hospital Chief Executive Officer Bernard Muriithi said.

Yesterday, public health facilities including the Nyeri County Referral Hospital and Othaya Level Four Hospital were virtually deserted. Beds in the emergency and medical wards remained unoccupied.

Patients who could not afford health services at private hospitals crowded a two-day free medical camp organised by Nyeri Central Seventh Day Adventist Church in collaboration with Family Health Options Kenya, a non-governmental organisation.

And hundreds of the striking health workers held a procession from Nyeri County Referral Hospital to the central business district in their quest to pressurise the county government to give in to their demands for promotions, pay rise, better working conditions, and July salaries.

Kenya National Union of Nurses Organising Secretary Ann Githiong'o, who is a nurse in Nyeri, accused the county administration of deliberately frustrating their efforts to get their dues.

"Our meeting with County Secretary Wambui Kimathi and Health Executive Charles Githinji on Monday ended in a stalemate after they told us that the government lacked the requisite framework to address our concerns," Ms Githiong'o told The Standard.

Despite acknowledging that the nurses' strike had disconcerted patients and consigned them to unforeseen suffering, Githiong'o maintained that health workers would not return to work until all their grievances were addressed.

Dr Githinji could not be reached for comment as he was held up in a meeting with top county health officials by the time of going to press.

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